Joint Press Statement on Impending Evictions of Shangaan Families in Chiredzi District

Green Governance Zimbabwe Trust join hands with the Women’s Academy for Leadership and Political Excellence, Institute for Community Development in Zimbabwe, Masvingo Centre for Research, Advocacy and Community Development, Matebeleland Institute for Human Rights, Heal Zimbabwe Trust and Advocates4Earth to condemn the impending evictions of the Shangaan families in Chiredzi District. We are following with concern developments in Chiredzi District where the of government of Zimbabwe has approved eviction of Shangaan families from their ancestral land to pave way for lucerne grass farming.

It is our conviction that this decision, to evict 2258 households with 13 840 people infringes on fundamental rights and freedoms set out in the Constitution. Further, it alienates the Shangani people from their agricultural, religious and cultural heritage as private capital interest trumps community needs.

Dendairy (Pvt) Ltd, a private dairy processor based in Kwekwe which exports to Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique, plans to grow hay and cow forage on this 6000ha of development land.

Publication of Statutory Instrument 50 of 2021 Communal Land (Setting Aside of Land) (Chiredzi) in the Government Gazette, confirms this regrettable development. It was issued by the Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Honorable July Moyo in terms of the Communal Land Act [Chapter 20: 04].

“The area of land described here under in terms of this schedule shall be set aside with effect from the date of publication of this notice for the purpose of Lucerne production”

“Any person occupying or using the land specified in the schedule, otherwise than by virtue of a right held in terms of the Mines and Minerals Act (Chapter 21,05), is ordered to depart permanently with all of his or her property from the said land by the date of publication of this notice, unless he or she acquires rights of use of occupation to the said land in terms of section (9) (1) of the Communal Land Act (Chapter (20,04).”

Distressingly, eviction is a legacy of injustice and a repetition of history for the Shangani people. They were displaced in the 1960s by the colonial government to pave way for Gonarezhou National Park and later moved to their current location in Chiredzi.

We therefore demand for responsible and sustainable investments which promote local content development in solidarity with the Chilonga community and other communities displaced without proper compensation. Corporates must be stopped at all costs from evicting local people of their communal land, whilst people and community rights must be placed before profit.

We call on the respect of Business and Human Rights (BHR) principles through the promotion of sustainable investments, transparency and accountability and the respect of obligations set by the Constitution to protect fundamental human rights from violations.

Zimbabwe should similarly uphold regional treaties like the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), the United Nations International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

The Zimbabwean Government must also consider domesticating the Kampala Declaration on Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) though a national legislation in order to establish a comprehensive national framework to address internal displacement.

Internationally accepted standards for development induced displacements like the Free Prior Informed Consent (FIPC) principles should be adhered to, with due diligence for displaced communities to resettle in serviced areas with schools, clinics, hospitals, roads and other infrastructure.

While the State can legally and compulsorily acquire land, or any right or interest in such land, this should be done with respect to its sacrosanct duty to protect its citizens and promote their wellbeing.

In accordance to Section 71 (3) of the Constitution government must ensure fair and just compensation for improvements effected on land payable before acquisition of the said land. Further, Section 13(2) of the Constitution provides that government national development programmes (like Lucerne production in this case) must involve local people in the formulation and implementation of development plans and programmes that affect them. Significantly, Section 16 Constitution compels government to ensure local people benefit from their land and other resources. It further imposes an obligation to promote and preserve cultural values and practices, as well as enhance dignity, well-being and equality in Zimbabwe.

We call on all progressive forces to resist this impending injustice by invoking Section 74 of the Constitution, that no persons may be evicted from their home or have their home demolished, without a court order made after considering all circumstances.

We urge government to actively involve the Shangani community in the lucerne project plans and project lifecycle through a structure for an Outgrowers Scheme and stimulate local development in line with the devolution agenda.

We also call on the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) to intervene and ensure compliance to due process for mitigation of violation of the rights of the Shangani community and also facilitate litigation process to protect their rights.

Source: Green Governance Zimbabwe Trust