Zimbabwe: 700,000 evicted still ignored five years on

Press Release
18 May 2010
The government of Zimbabwe must protect hundreds of thousands of people left to survive in substandard settlements five years after a programme of mass forced evictions, Amnesty International Zimbabwe and a coalition of partners said today.

“It is a scandal that five years on, victims are left to survive in plastic shacks without basic essential services,” said Amnesty International Zimbabwe’s director Cousin Zilala.

“The needs of these victims are at risk of being forgotten because their voices are consistently ignored.”

On 18 May 2005 the government of Zimbabwe began demolishing informal settlements across the country. The programme, known as Operation Murambatsvina, affected more than 700,000 people – leaving them without a home or livelihood. Most were driven deeper into poverty by the forced evictions, a situation which has been worsened by Zimbabwe’s economic crisis.

Following widespread local and international condemnation of Operation Murambatsvina, the government embarked on a re-housing programme, known as Operation Garikai/Hlalani Kuhle later in 2005. It aimed to provide shelter for the victims and to improve their living conditions. However, it was a dismal failure and now appears to have been abandoned.

Houses un-inhabitable
“The few houses that were built under the scheme are completely un-inhabitable,” said Cousin Zilala. “They have no floors, windows, water or toilets. Communities living in resettlement areas depend on humanitarian assistance and self help initiatives for their survival.”

In 2009, Harare council attempted to remove some of the victims of the 2005 forced evictions but was forced to reverse the decision amid protests from housing and human rights organisations.

Since its creation in February 2009, the unity government has done nothing to for the survivors of the forced evictions and their children who have been born in informal settlements.

No schools, no hospitals
Felistas Chinyuku is the former chairperson of the Porta Farm Residents Association. Porta Farm, a settlement of about 10,000 people, was destroyed by the government in 2005, despite the community obtaining several court orders barring the authorities from carrying out evictions.

“Five years have passed and many of us are still living in tents,” said Chinyuku, a resident at Hopley Farm on the outskirts of Harare, where the majority of residents survive in makeshift housing. “There are no schools, no health services and very little sanitation. This is no way for humans to live.”

“The deplorable living conditions and struggle for survival, which victims of Operation Murambatsvina continue to face, reveals the government’s failure to address ongoing injustices against some of the most vulnerable members of Zimbabwean society,” said Cousin Zilala.

Read our 2005 report featuring satellite images of the forced evictions

Find out more about our work on human rights in Zimbabwe