Homeless and hopeless

Sinqobile Tessa
COMING DOWN: A house being demolished near Harare

‘We voted for them and this is how they thank us!’

Fighting back tears, an acquaintance narrated how he had invested heavily and whole-heartedly in his plot, including drilling a borehole. Yet now he was being told to vacate as he was an illegal settler.

For the past 11 years, he has lived on the piece of land which he got from the local chief. He has also been paying annual rates at the Rural District Council, but that seemingly counts for nothing.

Thousands of families across the country are facing similar displacement from peri-urban areas and farming communities as the current regime cracks down on land barons whom they accuse of unlawfully parceling out state land.

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In recent years, land has been used as bait by the ruling party to lure voters.

This could have created some form of security for the land beneficiaries, safe in the knowledge they would continue occupying their pieces of land as long as they voted for the ruling party.

This seemed to work in the past but not anymore.

Some Zanu PF influential figures in various areas actually had the powers to give land, but now the government is saying all those who were not settled by the Ministry of Lands are illegal dwellers and should destroy their homes and leave.

“I used all my savings to develop the plot, even drilled a borehole (which costs not less than P35, 000) now they are telling us to leave. Where do we go, where do we even start, they want us to be squatters?” asked my teary-eyed friend.

I felt his pain.

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Many toiled to build the homes they are about to lose, in some cases there are modest five-roomed houses which will be razed to the ground.

Some land barons, who include ZanuPF officials, Chiefs, District Administrators and War Veteran leaders, have already been arrested for settling people in undesignated state land in exchange for cash.

Human Rights lawyers are trying to fight for some of the affected people as they are now homeless but the powers-that-be don’t seem bothered. A lucky few might retain their homes but the majority will just have to destroy what they built over the years.

On Tuesday, Zimbabwe Human Rights Lawyers posted on X that several distressed villagers had asked Zimbabwe courts to intervene and stop a fresh wave of evictions being spearheaded by government across the country.

Time will tell if the lawyers and affected people will win but for now, the evictions and destruction of homes continue with ruthless efficiency.

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