HARARE – NewsDay – 28 October, 2014 – LOCAL and international human rights organisations recently condemned the ongoing demolitions of houses by government and Harare City Council with the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) saying it would investigate the issue as no one was supposed to be rendered homeless.
FELUNA NLEYA/MOSES MATENGA
This follows demolitions which have been taking place in and around Harare since last week affecting mainly Epworth and Chitungwiza and threatening to expand to illegally built settlements in the city.
ZHRC chairperson Elasto Mugwadi told NewsDay the rights body would investigate the demolitions, while also engaging the responsible authority, which is the Ministry of Local Government, in order to hear both sides of the story.
“Thereafter we are going to make a statement on our findings. We need to make a well-informed comment, although we do not condone anything that renders someone shelterless so we have to investigate,” Mugwadi said.
“We need to look into why this was done just overnight when people would have built over years. Those are issues we are investigating as we just do not operate on hearsay, so we have to get the full facts of the whole issue.”
The police anti-riot squad was on Friday forced to fire warning shots into the air to disperse angry residents who were resisting eviction from their homes in Epworth.
In Chitungwiza, a nearly completed new shopping complex in St Mary’s suburb was demolished while hundreds of families were rendered homeless after the local municipality stormed the area bulldozing houses in the early hours of the morning.
Amnesty International said yesterday that the move by government was unconstitutional and thousands of residents would be affected.
“These evictions will leave thousands of people in an extremely dire situation, particularly with the rainy season approaching fast,” said Simeon Mawanza, Southern Africa regional specialist for Amnesty International.
“The recent evictions are a terrible reminder of the horrors of Operation Murambatsvina. The government has failed to learn the lesson that forced evictions drive the victims deeper into poverty. There needs to be an immediate halt to any further evictions and proper redress made to the victims. At the same time there needs to be a thorough investigation into the actions of the police and those found responsible for abuses held to account.”
Amnesty International said forced evictions were prohibited under the United Nations International Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to which Zimbabwe is a party to.
Forced evictions have also been condemned by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, a mechanism created by the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, which has been ratified by Zimbabwe.
Demolitions were also expected in Glen Norah where thousands are likely to be left homeless.
High Court judge Justice Nicholas Mathonsi is on Tuesday next week expected to hear an “urgent” chamber application filed by the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights through its member lawyer Tonderai Bhatasara of Mupanga Bhatasara Attorneys.
The application seeks to interdict Epworth Local Board, the Local Government Minister, Police Commissioner-General, Home Affairs Minister and Attorney-General from demolishing houses belonging to some Epworth residents.