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This article participates on the following special index pages:

  • New Constitution-making process - Index of articles

  • Media Watch on the Constitution - November 2013
    The Media Monitoring Project Zimbabwe
    December 13, 2013

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    Background to study

    The new Constitution of Zimbabwe declares the provision of shelter to all citizens and freedom from arbitrary eviction as fundamental human rights. Section 28 of the Constitution compels “the State and all institutions and agencies of government at every level” to “take reasonable legislative and other measures, within the resources available to them, to enable every person to have access to adequate shelter”.

    In addition, this right is also guaranteed under Chapter Four (Section 74) of the Declaration of Rights, which stipulates: “No person may be evicted from their home, or have their home demolished, without an order of court made after considering all the relevant circumstances”.

    Justification of study

    This study is significant because shelter is a fundamental human right that is not only protected under the provisions of the new Constitution, but also by the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and other international instruments to which Zimbabwe is a signatory.

    In its July election campaign Zanu-PF promised to prioritize the provision of adequate, decent and affordable housing and social amenities for Zimbabwe’s hard-pressed citizens.

    For instance, it’s election manifesto pledged the party would “embark on a vigorous housing programme to address the housing backlog of 1,25 million” if it won the elections. It promised to build “250,000 low income housing units” and to rehabilitate “1,250 public houses and buildings” over the next five years, as Zanu-PF was of the view that the provision of adequate shelter and social amenities was a vital “part of human civilization”.

    In line with this, Zanu-PF pledged to “reduce the urban housing backlog” by, among other interventions, “urgently regularizing the tenure of urban dwellers that were allocated housing and commercial stands on peri-urban farms under the land reform programme”.

    This study is important because Zimbabwe has been experiencing acute shortages of accommodation and social amenities, especially in its burgeoning urban centres.

    However, since its July election victory, the Zanu-PF government has embarked upon urban “clean-up” exercises reminiscent of its 2005 post-election “Operation Murambatsvina”, which destroyed more than 700,000 urban households, instead of addressing the critical housing shortage. In recent weeks, for example, the government began demolishing “illegal” dwellings in the capital’s dormitory towns of Ruwa and Chitungwiza, but aborted these operations following a public outcry. The media, as the Fourth Estate, have a responsibility to ensure that the government fulfils its constitutional obligations. So it has come as no surprise that the new government’s threats to clear these and other urban areas of “illegal structures” has attracted significant media attention.

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