Harare, November 7, 2013 – The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights Human (ZLHR) has given a 72-hour ultimatum to the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing to furnish the legal defence group with detailed information on how the government will honour its constitutional obligations before rolling out its planned forced evictions of residents in some parts of the country.
In a letter delivered to Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister Ignatius Chombo’s offices on Wednesday, lawyers from the country’s leading legal defence group demanded assurances from the ministry that they will follow the dictates of the law in executing the planned evictions and demolition of property given the fact that Zimbabwe has entered a new constitutional dispensation, which provides for the protection of the basic human rights of the people.
ZLHR said it is of the considered view that the planned evictions and demolitions which evokes memories of the May-July 2005 slum clearance known as Operation Murambatsvina violates several of the key protective provisions such as the right to shelter and freedom from arbitrary eviction among other rights.
The human rights organisation said Chombo’s ministry must comply with the provisions of Section 74 of the new Constitution which states that: “No person may be evicted from their home, or have their home demolished, without an order of court made after considering all the relevant circumstances.”
ZLHR demanded that Chombo’s ministry furnishes them with the total number of households that will be affected in particular how many children will be left without shelter and the duration of the notice period given to the affected families and persons and in what form shall the notice be.
The intervention by ZLHR follows Chombo’s recent proclamation that the government will soon demolish some “illegal structures” in Chitungwiza and Seke communal lands because there were “gross malpractices” in the allocation of land to the extent that this has spawned environmental risks.
ZLHR cautioned that the proposed evictions and demolition of housing structures will not only violate the Constitution but impair the rule of law.
From Chombo, ZLHR demanded to be advised of the steps that the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing has taken to ensure that all families and people are provided alternative accommodation by the ministry and local authority concerned considering the ministry’s obligations in terms of Section 28 of the Constitution. Section 28 of the Constitution states that: The State and all institutions and agencies of government at every level must take reasonable legislative and other measures, within the limits of the resources available to them, to enable every person to have access to adequate shelter.
ZLHR gave the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing 72 hours to furnish the required particulars, failing which ZLHR will take appropriate legal action against the minister and some responsible authorities.
The planned clean-up campaign which is along the lines of the 2005 forced eviction and demolition known as Operation Murambatsvina deprived at least 700 000 of the country’s poorest residents of their homes and livelihoods drawing criticism from local, regional and international human rights organisations including the United Nations.