Members of the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) raided an informal settlement in the Gunhill suburb of Harare on Wednesday morning and torched the residents’ homes.
“Driving people forcefully from their homes in the middle of the night cannot be justified in any circumstance,” said Michelle Kagari, deputy Africa director at Amnesty International. “The brutality with which this forced eviction was carried out is alarming.”
Following the eviction 55 residents, including five children, were taken to Harare Central Police Station and detained without access to lawyers. Lawyers who attempted to attend their clients at the police station were not informed why they had been detained. 52 of the detainees were released without charge later in the day.
Residents at the Gunhill settlement have previously been the victim of police raids in which members of the community are arbitrarily arrested, detained and subsequently released without charge in what appears to be a pattern of harassment by the police.
The community, estimated to be around 250 people, have since returned to the settlement at Gunhill and are living in the open without access to shelter.
“Amnesty International is calling on the Zimbabwean authorities to provide those made homeless with emergency shelter,” said Michelle Kagari. “They must also ensure that the victims receive adequate reparation, including adequate alternative accommodation and compensation.”
“The unity government must end the deplorable practice of forced evictions and give the Gunhill community assurances that this terrifying ordeal will not be repeated,” Michelle Kagari continued.
A large proportion of the Gunhill residents are former victims of Operation Murambatsvina (Restore Order), a programme of mass forced evictions implemented by the Zimbabwean authorities in 2005 which in which an estimated 700,000 people lost their homes. They had moved to the Gunhill settlement as a result of the 2005 eviction.
“The government has repeatedly failed to compensate or relocate the victims of Operation Murambatsvina. Hundreds of thousands of people continue to survive in deplorable conditions, and many face an ongoing threat of repeated forced eviction,” said Kagari.