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Evicting with impunity, without a conscience

Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda

The unfolding eviction stories of the Manzou Estate villagers in Mazowe again reveal the underbelly of our own institutions and the quality of governance underpinning the decision.

Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda
Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda

As the story unfolded in the full gaze of the public, it’s clear that this is a case of evicting with impunity and without a conscience.

This is a case of evicting with impunity, as it shows a clear violation of the existing laws of Zimbabwe in dealing with such cases; the basic tenets of protection of human rights and respect for due process of the law.

With an existing court order against evictions, without provision of alternative land, the evictions of January 7 2015 amount to a clear contempt of court.
If alternative land for resettling these people was made available, why were they not transported to this new place together with their belongings and before the start of the rainy season?

The quality of governance is measured by the respect with which each arm of government gives to the decision of the other. In this instance, it’s clear that the order to evict, to burn and push people to live in the open without alternatives smacks of a clear disrespect of the due process of the law.

Actually, I wonder whether all the relevant ministries affected by this decision gave their contributions and all agreed that this was the most appropriate course of action and within this timing, ie, ministries of Education, Health, Social Services, Agriculture, Justice, Lands and Home Affairs.

In public institutions such as a government, one would not necessarily take an action that adversely impacts on the mandate of the other without consultation and agreeing on remedies or mitigating factors. When people talk of government action, it’s not a reference to a single ministry, but the collective responsibility of all.

If there is no mutual accountability and mutual responsibility, internal discordance is discernible.

It’s clear that the timing and manner of these evictions shows a lack of conscience.

l Schools opening this week: This is that week of the month and the year which is so defining of our children of school-going age. It’s starting school, going into a new class or a new school.

These children cannot go to school like others, not because of their own accord, opting to evict just before the school opened. For many of the people making such decisions, their own children will be chauffeur-driven to school, they are well fed, warm and in clean uniforms. Their future is secured. And yet, with the taxpayer’s money, these leaders are destroying the future of other people’s children.

The future of Zimbabwe lies in the hands of every child, whose education is vital today and not tomorrow.

l Health and wellbeing: Again, it is a fact these evicted people are living in the open. They are at risk of disease or death, since they have no decent shelter, food, clean water and access to services.

I wonder if the health and well being of people was taken into account when the decision to evict without protection and alternatives was taken.

This is how the country creates poverty and stretches the already meagre resources. The nation is already struggling to have decent wages for the health workforce and doctors and nurses have been on or threatened to strike. Why strain an already strained public health sector?

l Farming season: This is the height of the rain-fed crop farming season in Zimbabwe. Any person who derives their livelihoods from the soil will plant a little patch of maize or groundnuts.

The planting season is over. Therefore by evicting people at this time of the year, the villagers are deprived of the basic livelihoods. Even if they are resettled elsewhere, they will not be able to plant and harvest anything at this time of the year.

Zimbabwe does not have a social security or welfare system that can provide the evicted people with alternatives until they are on their own

Yes, it is the prerogative of government to resettle people. This, however, must be done in a way that respects the law, fosters dignity for people and protects the basic welfare and wellbeing of citizens. Building a prosperous Zimbabwe is dependent on the way that we invest in the present, education for the children and protect human rights for all.

Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda is Goodwill Ambassador for the Campaign to End Child Marriage at the African Union, General Secretary at World YWCA and Founder/Chairperson at Rozaria Memorial Trust. She holds an LLB from the University of Zimbabwe