MACRAD Commemorate World Habitat Day With Indigenous Xhangaan People Facing Arbitrary Eviction

Masvingo Centre for Research Advocacy and Development (MACRAD) collaborating with Community Tolerance Reconciliation and Development Trust (COTRAD) and Institute for Community Development Zimbabwe ICOD Zim commemorating the World Habitat Day in Vhelemu village Chilonga ward 6 Chiredzi rural district reflecting on the state of towns and cities, and on the basic right of all to adequate shelter. The day was also intended to remind the government that the indigenous Xhangaan speaking people have the power and the responsibility to shape the future of our communities. 

Having an adequate home is now, more than ever, a matter of life and death. As COVID-19 continues to spread, people have been told to stay at home, but this simple measure is impossible for people who do not have adequate housing. At the same time, COVID-19 has reminded us that home is much more than just a roof. To make us feel safe and enable us to continue living, working and learning, a home needs to be secure, to allow us to access basic services and infrastructure for hygiene measures and to have enough room for physical distancing. It should also be located in a place that enables residents to access public green and open spaces, employment opportunities, health-care services, schools, childcare centers and other social facilities. 

Structural inequalities have been highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic in Masvingo province, showing how people from minorities, indigenous peoples and migrants are disproportionately affected by arbitrary evictions, housing precarity, overcrowding and homelessness. COVID-19 has spread in areas like Chiredzi rural district where people lack adequate housing, and are faced with inequalities and poverty.

Residents in Chilonga under Chief Sengwe, Headman Chlonga and Headman Masivamele are facing the risk of being evicted and relocated particularly in times of this crisis. From the special council minutes of the meeting held on the 30th April 2020 at Chiredzi council offices it highlighted that 678 villagers with 2 258 households and 13 840 people will be relocated and introduction of lucerne project. During the commemorating participants highlighted that despite the government failing to conduct consultations with them, they are not even aware of where they will be relocated to and if there will be availability of basic amenities.

During the commemoration the community alluded that, there is need for the government to consult the Xhangaan communities first since there are the ones who are going to be affected, members queried that there is no full package for them, there is need for enough knowledge concerning the lucerne grass, need to consult cultural issues, especially the relocation of graves, loss of indigenous knowledge systems, socio-economic implications and fear to loss basic amenities among other issues. 

Women participating in the commemoration welcomed the donation of two-foot pump valves donated by Honorable Masiya of Chiredzi East Constituency. The two-foot pump valves will be placed in Vhelemu ward 6 at Mavunda and Benjamin boreholes. Women used to travel long distances to fetch water and social distance was difficult as the only remaining borehole was providing water to a larger population. 

MACRAD, COTRAD and ICOD work in improving living conditions of the marginalized groups as a matter of urgency as it has been brought to the fore by COVID-19, which has devastated the lives of millions in cities. Access to clean water and sanitation, along with social distancing, are key responses to the pandemic and it is the duty of the responsible authorities to provide these services to the citizens.  The 2020 Theme was, Housing For All — A Better Urban Future.

Housing is a human right and a catalyst for all other fundamental rights. It is the only way to ensure the “Right to the City for All”.

Source: Masvingo Centre for Research Advocacy and Development (MACRAD)