Amnesty International on Tuesday said the decision barring the forced eviction of families from Arnold Farm in Mazowe is a victory for human rights and justice.
The provisional order was handed down by the High Court on Monday after armed police indiscriminately and arbitrarily demolished homes and set on fire personal belongings of some 150 families on 7 January 2014.
“The High Court of Zimbabwe has reaffirmed that no one can just wake up and decide to evict people from their place of residence without following the law. The Zimbabwean authorities must now stop these forced evictions and abide by the court order,” said Simeon Mawanza, Amnesty International’s researcher for the Southern Africa region.
The families were left in the open after their homes were demolished by the police, with no cover from the elements, in the midst of the rainy season.
“The government should immediately provide emergency shelter for the victims and ensure adequate compensation for their loss and provide a durable solution,” said Simeon Mawanza.
The evictions were carried out despite an earlier High Court order issued in August 2014 protecting the Arnold Farm residents from arbitrary eviction under Section 74 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe.
The families initially occupied the farm in 2000 as part of the government’s Fast Track Land Reform Programme to equitably distribute land between black subsistence farmers and white Zimbabweans of European ancestry.
The Mazowe case is not an isolated incident of violent forced evictions. In 2014, Amnesty International documented several cases in Harare, Mashonaland East, Masvingo, and Mashonaland Central provinces. In some of these cases, court orders were disregarded by the authorities.
“The Zimbabwean authorities continue to disregard the provisions of the new Constitution resulting in serious violations of human rights. It is not enough to have a beautifully crafted declaration of rights without a corresponding commitment to protecting these rights.
The authorities, the police in particular, must conduct themselves in a manner consistent with the letter and spirit of the Constitution,” said Simeon Mawanza.
“It is disturbing and regrettable that a culture of impunity is being allowed to continue and is being defended by the government in the context of forced evictions across the country.”