Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

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Confronting the scourge of arbitrary evictions

Confronting the scourge of arbitrary evictions

Arbitrary evictions are becoming a common phenomenon in Zimbabwe, despite being a transgression against national, regional and international laws that the country is subject to.

Guest Column: FRANCIS MUKORA

1-Evicted residents seeking shade from the rains after their houses were distroyed by police at Manzou Farm in Mazoe to pave way for Grace Mugabe to expand her bussiness Pi Shepherd Tozvireva1

Over the past month alone, several incidents of forced displacements occurred across the country, some of which made media headlines, while others went unreported.

A recent edition of the Zimbabwe Independent reported that First Lady Grace Mugabe had grabbed Mazowe Dam and barred local communities from using it, in addition to her forcible eviction of villagers and takeover of huge tracts of land at the surrounding Manzou and Arnold farms over the last three years.

Two days later, The Standard also revealed how more than 150 families, including women and children, who had been evicted from Stanley and Dorothy Moore farms in Chegutu to pave way for Samuel Nhakaniso, were living in the open with some children having dropped out of school just as was the case in Rusape three weeks earlier, where a white commercial farmer, together with more than 120 of his workers, had been violently evicted from Lesbury Farm to pave way for cleric, Trevor Manhanga.

Urban and informal peri-urban settlements, particularly in Harare’s suburbs of Budiriro, Glen Norah, Chitungwiza and Epworth, have also experienced these incidents of arbitrary displacements over the past two years.

Suffice to note that these evictions, which are in violation of section 74 of the Zimbabwean Constitution, usually follow a systematic pattern.

Firstly, they are in violation of section 74 of the Zimbabwean Constitution. Secondly, they are usually violent in nature and perpetrated by State institutions, particularly the national or the municipal police, sometimes in flagrant disregard of interdictory court orders despite claims to be enforcing the by-laws.

Thirdly, the instigators and beneficiaries of these unconstitutional displacements are either powerful members of the ruling Zanu PF or have strong links to the party, as is the case with both the First Lady and Manhanga.

These displacements are taking place within what has become a hugely informalised and politically polarised socio-economic context, where access to public resources is determined more by political party allegiance than citizenship-based entitlement.

While it is not always possible to objectively verify whether such displacements are purely political manoeuvres, most of them have been timed immediately before or after an election as was the case with Operation Murambatsvina in 2005, Operation Mavhotera Papi in 2008 and after the 2013 elections, thereby, giving credence to suggestions they could be a ploy to strengthen and perpetuate Zanu PF electoral hegemony by disenfranchising an urban electorate viewed as pro-opposition and replace it with pro-ruling party voters.

With the 2018 elections on the horizon, these arbitrary displacements are likely to increase, especially against the backdrop of pronouncements by President Robert Mugabe at his June youth interface rally in Marondera that all remaining white farmers should be evicted to enable occupation by party youth.

The bigger likelihood is that these envisaged evictions will not spare the “beneficiaries” of the fast-track land reform programme resulting in a rise in black-on-black displacement incidences, which started just after the 2013 elections.

As was the case in Mazowe, where party supporters and war veterans were forcibly evicted to pave way for expansion of the First Family’s business empire, or at Lesbury Farm, where hapless families were displaced to pave way for Manhanga, or in Manyame, where families slept in the bush for more than a week after their houses had been razed by the police; peri-urban settlements will be the new target areas, as the youth and land barons connected to the ruling party will target stands closer to major cities.

Service delivery issues, such as clean water sources and sanitation facilities, education and roads will be sacrificed for political expediency.

Security of tenure will never be given as a strategy to keep avenues of manipulation open in the post-election period.

Party allegiance will be emphasised as security of tenure.

But such promises and assurances have been made in the past each time an election is on the horizon, only to be ignored and broken once a victory has been secured, as was the case in 2013.

Maybe it is time this often manipulated electorate in displacement prone communities engage the politicians at their own game, in their own backyards and by their own rules.

And that means both the ruling Zanu PF party, which forms the central government and whose senior officials have been displacing beneficiaries of the land reform programme, as well as the opposition MDC-T, which controls some urban local authorities, which have been demolishing “illegal” urban structures, some of which would have been erected with their authorisation, as was the case in Budiriro, need to be held accountable as they are partners in crime within this complex arbitrary displacement matrix.

Here is how it can be done.

Displacement prone communities need to self-mobilise and organise to utilise existing protection mechanisms, such as section 74 of the Constitution, the courts of law and the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, to confront these unconstitutional evictions.

Secondly, if Zanu PF can use land and the threat of eviction as a carrot and stick in soliciting and manipulating votes in the 2018 elections, then the electorate can also turn this into an opportunity by using their votes to bargain for genuine security of tenure.

Thus, instead of it being the 2018 elections trump card for Zanu PF only, displacement prone communities can also use it as a bargaining chip in pursuit of a secure tenure complete with genuine service delivery whether in resettlement areas or informal urban settlements.

Within this matrix, the civil society, instead of being reactive by only providing emergency aid after these unconstitutional arbitrary displacements have already occurred, can be proactive by building the capacities of these displacement prone communities to effectively implement the aforementioned pre-emptive and protective actions.

While these measures may not be enough to completely eradicate arbitrary displacements undertaken by the powerful elite, they surely provide a starting point to the search for durable solutions against the growing scourge of arbitrary displacements in Zimbabwe.

Francis Mukora is the co-ordinator for Community Alliance Against Displacements in Zimbabwe (CAADZ), an alliance of community-based organisations and pressure groups working against arbitrary displacements across five provinces in Zimbabwe. He can be contacted at fmukora@gmail.com for your views, opinions and feedback.

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