Masvingo Centre for Research Advocacy and Development is concerned about the rise of forced eviction cases in Masvingo Province. When the time housing has become the frontline defense against the coronavirus four cases of forced eviction has been documented by MACRAD. Surprisingly of the four cases, the government is the perpetrator on three cases and the other cases it’s land dispute amongst village heads. In order to prevent the spread of COVID-19, States across the world are ordering millions of people to “stay home”. And yet in Zimbabwe, at the same time, many households and communities continue to be threatened with eviction in Masvingo Province. At least 150 million people worldwide live in homelessness, in emergency shelters, or on pavements. One quarter of the world’s urban population live in informal settlements, lacking security of tenure. They can be removed from their lands at any time. It has been reported that forced eviction of informal settlement dwellers have been considered in order to ‘de- densify’ settlements to implement physical distancing.
In Chiredzi rural the government is in the process of evicting 2258 households, Xhangaan families in Chilonga without proper consultation. These families are evicted to pave way for the lucerne grass project. In Masvingo rural, Clipsham residents are now living in fear as they were notified to leave their ancestral land for the expansion of Masvingo town residential area. In Masvingo rural again residents in Bani near Nemanwa growth point along Great Zimbabwe road were served with eviction letters. For the past ten years Bani residents were paying tax to the Nemanwa rural council. The council argued that these families were dwelling at an illegal place. In Chiredzi North, ward 23, Gutsaruzhinji C 56 households were violently evicted from their land by the Sons of Nyangambe. The Sons of Nyangambe are removing these families and arguing that they are residing in their grazing land. On the ongoing land conflicts in Nyangambe MACRAD observed that Chiredzi North legislator Roy Bhila and ward 23, councilor Douglas Mutovo are fueling the conflict by supporting sons of Nyangambe to violently evict these 56 families from their land due to its proximate to Mkwasine Estate sugarcane plantation infrastructure and the irrigation canal. The two need to turn the area into sugarcane plots. Since July 2020 these families are living along the road with no food, clean water, shelter and absence of a health centre especially to some individuals who sustain injuries during the conflict. Two women gave birth as they failed to access a health centre nearby and they lost their national identity cards. The affected families reported the matter to Mkwasine police station but no one was arrested.
Evictions are not only inconsistent with the ‘stay home’ policy, but forced evictions are a violation of international human rights law, including the right to housing, as are any evictions that result in homelessness. In the face of this pandemic, being evicted from your home is a potential death sentence. The right to adequate housing is not subject to derogation in times of emergency. Limitations to this right are only permissible as determined by law and insofar as they are compatible with the nature of this right, and solely for the purpose of promoting the general welfare in a democratic society. Masvingo Centre for Research Advocacy and Development (MACRAD) argued that the state must therefore take the following urgent measures, in conformity with their obligations under human rights law:
I. Declare an end to all evictions of anyone, anywhere for any reason until the end of the pandemic and for a reasonable period of time thereafter. The only exceptions to this blanket policy should be where someone must be removed from his or her home because she or he is causing harm to others or in a situation of a serious threat to the life of residents, e.g. to prevent death provoked by housing collapses or by natural disasters, such as flooding. Any person that is evacuated to prevent harm must be provided with secure and decent alternative housing.
II. With respect to informal settlements and encampments: Declare an end to the forced eviction or displacement of informal settlements. Ensure the necessary resources are available to implement this order effectively, including resources to monitor and prevent extrajudicial evictions.
III. Prohibit emergency processes, such as ‘de-densification’, that involve the forced removal of large numbers of people from informal settlements/encampments.
IV. Where households have agreed to be resettled for de-densification purposes, they must have the right to return or alternatively be able to remain in the resettlement area if they so wish and be provided there with security of tenure. Any resettlement should only take place after affected persons have been meaningfully consulted.
V. Cease the forced eviction or dismantling of encampments of homeless people and recognize that in some instances encampments may be safer than other available accommodation, such as collective shelters. Residents of encampments must, however, be provided with the option of moving to alternate accommodation where self-isolation is possible.
In this context, the government of Zimbabwe must ensure that everyone is protected against eviction.
Source: Masvingo Centre for Research Advocacy and Development (MACRAD Trust)