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Civil society petitions President over plight of displaced citizens



CIVIL society organisations (CSOs) operating in areas where citizens have been internally displaced to pave way for controversial projects have petitioned President Emmerson Mnangagwa to urgently address the abject living conditions in resettlement areas, among other demands.


 Across the country, thousands of people have over the years been forced to relocate to pave way for projects the government deemed to be in the national interest. About 1 500 families in Manicaland were displaced in Chiadzwa villages to pave way for diamond mining in their ancestral lands and were resettled in Arda Transau without restitution.

 They are living in dire conditions. The remaining 4 000 families in Chiadzwa’s security-protected diamond area are living like stateless citizens as they are not allowed to construct permanent buildings, embark on business ventures in the area or farm in the places they are living since there is a high possibility they will again be displaced.

An estimated 12 000 ethnic Shangani community members in Chilonga and Masivamele in Chiredzi district are facing displacement to pave way for a dairy project approved by government. The Lubimbi community is being threatened with displacement to pave way for Lake Gwayi-Shangani while villagers in Dinde are again at risk of displacement for a coal-mining project by Chinese companies. In addition, 300 families in Chegutu East are being threatened with displacement to make way for platinum mining.

 About 40 families from Buhera district were displaced by a Chinese lithium mining company without a negotiated compensation and relocation agreement while dozens of families from Kaseke and Chindenga in Mutoko district are being threatened with displacement by a black granite mining firm.

The community in Chinyamukwakwa in Chipinge is being displaced to pave way for sugarcane agribusiness while villagers in Muzarabani face the same fate for oil prospecting, drilling and mining. Perturbed by these disturbances, seven CSOs working in the affected areas have petitioned Mnangagwa demanding redress of the situation.

 The CSOs are ARDA Transau Relocation Development Trust; Manyame Social Solidarity (MASOSO) Public Information Rights Forum (PIRF); Mazowe Evant Farm Community Trust; Centre for Research and Development (CRD); Masvingo Centre for Research and Development (MACRAD), as well as the Community Alliance for Human Settlements in Zimbabwe (CAHSZ). Part of the petition seen by The NewsHawks reads: “We call on the government of Zimbabwe, as a member of the family of United Nations to respect international legal frameworks guiding internal displacements and domesticate the United Nations Guiding Principles on Internal Displacements and the African Union’s Kampala Convention of 2009.

“We call on the government to take urgent measures to assess the vulnerability of internally displaced communities- or people caught up in situations of displacement and urgently provide humanitarian needs and protection, including emergency shelter, food, water, sanitation and medical services.

“We call on the Government of Zimbabwe to durably address internal displacements in Zimbabwe by expediting the enactment of a compensation and relocation framework as mandated by Chapter 66 of the Zimbabwe National Human Settlements Policy (ZNHSP).”

 The CSOs also highlighted that the envisaged compensation and relocation framework will institutionalise engagement between displacement-threatened communities, investors and government based on several human-rights based principles which are the cornerstones of both the UNGPID and Kampala Convention.”

The conventions include those which advocate for free consent prior to relocation; fair compensation and respect of basic human rights prior, during and after displacement.

“We urge government to establish a dedicated government agency to manage displacements and internally displaced people and provide effective grievance redress and feedback mechanisms that facilitate engagement between the central government officials/institutions, local government, capital/investors and the targeted communities in cases of disputes and human rights violations before during and after displacements.”

“Government, investors and communities of places threatened with development-induced displacements negotiate and sign legally binding relocation and compensation agreements. There must be clear guidelines for fair assessment valuation and compensation for affected households, including emotional and psychological harm losses of social and economic infrastructure such as roads, schools clinics, cultural sites such as shrines and graveyards,” the CSOs further wrote in the petition. In addition as part of their demands, the CSOs want the government to reform the gazetted Lands (Consequential Provisions) Act (Chapter 20:28) to include protections against arbitrary evictions and a stop to criminalisation of continued occupation of gazetted land before remedial actions by affected people are exhausted.

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