Epworth Residents Demand Compensation Over Demolished Houses

Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri, Local Government, Rural and Urban Development Minister Ignatius Chombo and co-Home Affairs Ministers Theresa Makone and Kembo Mohadi were cited as respondents by the residents together with the Epworth Local Board.

The Epworth Local Board and the police in September indiscriminately and arbitrary razed the residents’ houses using some front end loaders and left them vulnerable at a time of summer rain season without giving any reasons for taking such actions.

The residents with the help of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) have now petitioned the Supreme Court demanding compensation for the destruction of their homes which action they say violates the constitution.

In the application filed by Tawanda Zhuwarara of ZLHR, the residents challenged the manner and constitutionality of the destruction of the residents’ homes.

The residents argued that the destruction of houses by the Epworth Local Board and the police violated sections 15 and 18 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe that guarantee protection against cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and the right to adequate protection of the law.

“The Epworth Local Board and Police acted without lawful authority or regard to due process of the law. Consequently, because of their arbitrary and reckless actions, families were rendered destitute and left at the mercy of the natural elements. The affected individuals not only lost all their belongings in a manner that was reminiscent of Operation Murambatsvina but also had to suffer the indignity of being rendered homeless,” ZLHR said in a statement released Monday.

The pioneering human rights group said the actions of the Epworth Local Board and the police were in direct violation of the United Nations Basic Principles and Guidelines on Development Based Evictions and Displacement.

“In particular the failure by the authorities to give adequate notice, consult with affected persons or explore fully all possible alternatives to the house destructions violated articles 37 and 38 of the United Nations Basic Principles and Guidelines on Development Based Evictions and Displacement,” ZLHR said.

The lawyers’ organisation said the creation and awarding of constitutional damages is appropriate owing to the manner in which people’s homes were destroyed by state authorities.

The demolition of the Epworth houses is reminiscent of the callous destruction of residents in May 2005 in a clean-up operation, which led to the unemployment of 700 000 families and affected a further 2.4 million people.