Police last week evicted 100 families from Arnold Farm in Mazowe, allegedly to pave way for first lady Grace Mugabe despite a High Court order barring them from destroying the villagers’ homes.
social commentary with Moses Mugugunyeki
The law enforcement agents demolished villagers’ homes although High Court judge Justice Felistas Chatukuta had ordered police to stop evicting the families from the farm.
Among the evicted was Talent Chingwaru, a mother of a two-week-old baby who had no idea of the fate of her offspring.
“This is my third born and I left my husband behind. I cannot even wash nappies because they will not dry up, so I have to continue carrying her because her belly button has not healed yet,” Chingwaru told The Standard last week.
She said she and several other women and children had been drenched by rain as police bundled them into trucks along with their belongings and drove them to Rivers Farm, which is about 40km from their demolished homes along the Mazowe-Mvurwi highway.
People fear that the evictions were a repeat of last year’s Manzou Farm expulsions where close to 90 families were kicked out of the Mazowe farm allegedly to pave way for the first lady. The actions by the authorities have met with harsh condemnation from the community, church groups, non-governmental organisations and the international community.
While the authorities argue that the evictions were above board, little has been considered on the aftermath of the exercise and possibly the plight of women and children.
The evictions infringe on the rights of the villagers to decent housing and shelter, freedom form arbitrary evictions as espoused by the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and the United Nations Charter.
Through a decision by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Nigeria (2001), the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights is also understood to include a right to housing and a right to food as “implicit” in the charter, particularly in light of its provisions on the right to life (Article 4), right to health (Article 16) and to development (Article 22).
Like the land reform programme — a government policy that was haphazardly done to address the racially-based land injustices — there is a possibility that women and children will bear the brunt of the evictions.
“Removing people from where they called homes is an obvious disruption in the flow of their day-to-day livelihoods activities like farming. It is also taking them from their shelter. The principles of human rights are clear that before you displace people, you need to have established alternative accommodation for them,” said human rights activist Nyari Mashayamombe .
“What we are seeing in the recent actions is an abuse of human rights and dehumanisation of communities which we saw during Murambatsvina and many other demolitions that followed. I believe the High Court had ruled in favour of the villagers and if the police insist on evicting people and demolishing their houses, then that is thuggery and a disgrace to the service and tax payer’s money.
“We expect the first lady to be the mother who shelters people and I hope that these disruptions to families can be stopped so that women and children can have the peace and security they need in their homes. It doesn’t take much to know that when people are removed from their homes, women and children suffer the most.”
Mashayamombe said what happened in Mazowe shouldn’t be happening in Zimbabwe 37 years after independence and in a country where there was supposed to be rule of law.
Chingwaru’s quandary is similar to a number of women and children who were evicted from farms and eventually became homeless.
Homelessness influences every facet of women and children’s lives. The experience of homelessness impedes their emotional, social and behavioural development.
In general, homeless women and children consistently exhibit more health problems. Environmental factors contribute to their poor health and they are vulnerable to infectious diseases.
Women and children without proper homes are at greater risk of all forms of harsh weather. We are in the rainy season and demolitions with no alternative accommodation are cruelty in itself.
Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) in a statement said the recent Mazowe farm evictions painted an overwhelmingly bleak picture of women and children’s current and future status.
“The Constitution of Zimbabwe affords children of primary school-going age the right to basic education. This right has been violated as the children who have been relocated to an area 40km away are not able to go to school. In addition, the Constitution notes that every child has the right to shelter and this right has been infringed through the evictions,” said ZPP.
“All citizens have a right to food and those displaced from their homes and source of food must be assisted with food by the government. The Social Welfare Department has not visited the makeshift camp to assess the situation and assist the displaced villagers. It is the primary obligation of the Zimbabwean government to protect, respect and fulfil the rights of the displaced people.”
From the look of things, there are no intervention strategies in place to overcome many of the detrimental effects of the evictions.
It looks like the evictions had no facility that could mitigate the effects of homelessness, such as supportive housing and compensation as people affected families were dumped at an old tobacco barn.
Government’s failure to provide alternative accommodation to the affected families will have a negative bearing on the lives of women and children. It is a violation 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.”