AN international housing and land rights movement has petitioned President Emmerson Mnangagwa asking him to stop the pending house demolitions in the country, particularly at Crowborough Farm, Harare.
Habitat International Coalition (HIC), an international housing and land rights network consisting of about 450 civil society organisations (CSOs) worldwide, has written to Mnangagwa advising him to stop human rights violations, particularly the right to shelter.
The petition, dated February 25, written by the organisation’s coordinator, Joseph Schechla, was delivered at the President’s Munhumutapa Offices last week.
It stated that residents of Crowborough Farm, located 20km west of Harare, faced gross violations of their rights, particularly the rights to adequate housing, and forced evictions carried out under Mnangagwa’s authority.
Crowborough Farm, which was formerly administered by the Harare City Council, was the site for the city’s now defunct water treatment plant, operated jointly with a cattle ranch.
It was later occupied by home seekers around the 2013 general elections.
Harare has a housing deficit of 1,3 million, and a waiting list of over 500 000.
In 2016, the Harare City Council obtained 23 court rulings against housing co-operatives, 16 of which are from Crowborough Farm.
Houses in Budiriro were demolished last December during the rainy season and at the peak of COVID-19 infections.
A total of 40 other co-operatives’ houses across the country’s urban councils face demolition.
“We are proposing alternative solutions in accordance with Zimbabwe’s treaty obligations in this year of the country’s report to the High-level Political Forum on its progress toward the sustainable development goals,” part of the letter read.
The activists said the residents of Crowborough, whose houses face demolition, built permanent structures, some with serviced roads, electricity connections, sewer and water infrastructure.
“According to information received, some have been paying taxes and service fees to the city council, while some are in the process of formalising their settlement. This amounts to tens of thousands of United States dollars that these now-threatened households have invested into their homes and communities,” the HLRN statement read.
The CSOs said the fact that most urban councils were controlled by the opposition, while the ruling Zanu-PF party controlled central government, had resulted in urban land becoming a political and partisan battleground for the two political parties at the expense of residents.
“We urge you to support the formalisation of urban housing through provision of the required infrastructure, amenities and secure tenure as the cornerstones of the fundamental human right to adequate housing and Zimbabwe’s State obligations,” the CSOs’ letter further read.
“A clear regularisation and formalisation plan is needed, where possible, before demolitions, forced evictions, dispossessions and destruction of their property. Where that is not physically possible and conflicting rights are involved, reparations, including proper resettlement, are required of the State and its organs.”
The organisation urged Mnangagwa to ensure justice and bring sanity to local governance in the country.