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Respect people’s social rights

The demolition of houses in Epworth last week showed authorities learnt nothing from the tragic events of 2005, when government launched a clean-up operation that left about 700 000 people homeless.

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Government launched Operation Murambatsvina in May that year in a bid to rid cities of slums and vices associated with them.

However, the manner in which the operation was carried out prompted then United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan to dispatch his envoy Anna Tibaijuka to investigate widespread reports of human rights violations.

Tibaijuka discovered that the exercise was being carried out with “disquieting indifference” to human suffering and had left about 2,4 million people affected in one way or another.

Annan then ordered a halt to the demolitions and also called on those who orchestrated the policy to be prosecuted.

Seven years later, when all right-thinking people thought Murambatsvina had taught Zimbabweans a lesson about the need to respect people’s right to shelter, another demolition exercise was carried out in Epworth last week.

The exercise bore the hallmarks of the infamous Murambatsvina, except that this time a company, Sunway City, was behind the demolitions.

Sadly, no arrangements were made to house the victims elsewhere in spite of the fact that Zimbabwe is party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural rights. The covenant states that people cannot be forcibly evicted without  alternative plans to house them.

As a result, the actions of Sunway City, just like those of the government in 2005, need to be condemned in the strongest terms. Though it had a court order, the company should have prioritised the plight of 200 families who are now homeless before sending bulldozers to raze their houses. Innocent children, who watched helplessly as their homes were destroyed, will be worst affected.

The timing of the destruction of houses also shows Sunway was insensitive to their plight.

October marks the beginning of the rainy season, and it therefore means the homeless people will be at the mercy of the rains.

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