NEW YORK, 8 March 2021 – Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called on the Zimbabwean government to stop the eviction of thousands of people from an indigenous minotiry group.
These evictions “ignore the rights of indigenous communities and would leave thousands of people destitute and vulnerable,” said Dewa Mavhinga, the southern Africa director at the rights group in a statement.
An order issued last February 26 ordered the eviction of more than 13,000 people of the minority Shangani group to vacate approximately 12,940 hectares of Chilonga communal land in Chiredzi, southern Zimbabwe.
The Local Government, Urban and Rural Development Minister July Moyo issed the legal order, asking the over 13,000 people to leave immediately unless they can acquire fresh rights of use or occupation to that land.
The order said the land was being set aside for Lucerne grass production – farming grass for stockfeed.
HRW blasted officials for taking the ecision in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Any eviction, HRW said, should only go ahead “when it is strictly necessary, and follows due process, adequare prior consultation with those affected, adequate compensation, and provision of alternative land.”
The evictions have reawakened memories of evictions that the group suffered under colonial rule.
“This is not the first forced eviction for the Shangani people in Chilonga community. In the 1960s, the colonial government displaced us to Chiredzi from our ancestral lands to pave way for Gonarezhou National Park,” HRW cites a member of the community as lamenting.
Fored displacements without compensation, or forced evictions, violate internathonal human rights law.
The victims have cited the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights reaffirming that communities’ traditional and collective ownership of land should be recognized and protected under the right to property.
They have also referred to the United Nations Committee on Economic, Cultural and Social Rights which condemns forced evictions.
Any “permanent or temporary removal against their will of individuals, families and.or communities from the homes and.or land which they occupy, without the provision of, and access to, appropriate forms of legal or other protection” contravenes the provisions of the UN body.
“The Mnangagwi government should do the right thing and treat the people of Chilonga with the respect and dignity they deserve by respecting their land and property rights and peacefully engaging with them on its plans,” HRW said in the statement.