via Demolitions: Rights lawyers warn Chombo – DailyNews Live by Bridget Mananavire 15 APRIL 2014
Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo’s threat to evict and demolish houses for “illegally-settled” Chitungwiza and Manyame rural residents has been branded unconstitutional by rights lawyers.
Chombo issued a three-week ultimatum last week to Chitungwiza and Manyame Rural District Council residents to destroy their illegally-constructed houses.
The houses in question are those built on wetlands, on top of sewer pipes and under powerline servitudes and are still under construction.
About 14 000 families will be affected by the evictions.
“The proposed evictions and demolition of housing structures will not only violate the Constitution but impair the rule of law,” Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) spokesperson Kumbirai Mafunda said.
“The government particularly the Local Government, Public Works and National Housing ministry headed by Ignatius Chombo must assure citizens that the government will follow the dictates of the law in executing the planned evictions and demolition of property given the fact that Zimbabwe has entered a new constitutional dispensation, which provides for the protection of the basic human rights of the people.
“ZLHR reserves the right to institute legal action to protect citizens’ rights which are on the verge of being violated.”
In 2005, government embarked on a slum clearance operation known as Murambatsvina where over
700 000 people were displaced.
Government has argued that people exposed themselves to danger by settling close to high voltage power pylons, on wetlands and disregarded urban and rural planning by-laws.
The rights lawyers said the eviction and planned demolitions violated several key protective provisions of the new Constitution such as the right to shelter and freedom from arbitrary eviction enshrined in Section 74.
“So the government must comply with the provisions of Section 74 of the new Constitution which states that no person may be evicted from their home, or have their home demolished, without an order of court made after considering all the relevant circumstances,” Mafunda said.
“In taking any action that the government has threatened to, it must honour its constitutional obligations before rolling out the planned forced evictions of residents.”
Mafunda said Chombo should furnish the public with the duration of the notice period given to the affected families and persons.
He said the right to shelter was a key provision under the new 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.”