Land evictions: Civic groups petition UN
ELEVEN independent civic and human rights groups have launched a joint petition to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Development protesting the eviction and/or planned displacement of villagers across Zimbabwe to pave the way for mining and other development initiatives.
In their online petition to Saad Alfarargi, who was appointed Special Rapporteur on the Right to Development in 2017, the groups argued that the evictions and planned displacements violated the social, economic, cultural and environmental rights of the affected communities.
The Special Rapporteur on the Right to Development is one of the thematic special procedures overseen by the UN Human Rights Council. Several thousands of villagers across the country face eviction to pave way for coal mining projects by giant corporates, the state and private investment projects.
In Chiredzi, for example, the government set aside 12 940 hectares of communal land in Chilonga through a statutory instrument (SI) for a lucerne grass project. The SI sparked an outcry, with human rights lawyers highlighting its unconstitutionality, forcing the government to backtrack.
The outcry is not isolated to Chiredzi, but has erupted in several other areas such as Dinde in Hwange and in Domboshava on the outskirts of Harare, where villagers face displacement emanating from the rush for coal and gold deposits by the Chinese and alleged Zanu PF officials respectively.
Environmentalists have argued the government should prioritise sustainable environmental programmes such as tourism and wildlife conservation in some areas such as Hwange, rather than potentially destructive mining activities for coal, which Zimbabwe still relies on heavily for its electricity generation.
“From the time Zimbabwe adopted the Vision 2030 development agenda in September 2018 to date, over 73 524 rural Zimbabwean citizens from across the different provinces of the country either are being actually displaced or risk evictions and displacements by mining, agriculture, urbanisation and development initiatives and more than 23 440 hectares of peasant farmers’ land is being taken away by international investors,” the 11 civic groups said.
Signatories to the petition include the Binga District Residents’ Association (BIRPA), Beitbridge Progressive Residents and Ratepayers Development Trust (BRRDT), Greater Whange Residents’ Trust (GWRT), Centre for Natural Resource Conflicts (CNRC) and Kalanga Language and Cultural Development Association (KLCDA). The Kanyi Redu Development Association Trust (KRDAT), Lupane Youth for Development (LYD), Matabeleland Institute for Human Rights (MIHR), Matobo Youth Development Initiative (MYDI), Tikobane Trust, Turf Resources Conservation Trust (TRCT) and Zimbabwe Young Women’s Network for Peacebuilding (ZYNP) also signed the petition.
“These development-based evictions and displacements are resulting in gross violation of fundamental social, economic, cultural, environmental and political human rights and freedoms of the affected communities.”
The Human Rights Council established the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the right to development in September 2016 with Resolution 33/14 to, among other objectives, integrate the right to development into human rights. The Special Rapporteur fulfils this mandate in several ways, including engaging with UN member states and relevant stakeholders; reporting to the UN Human Rights Council and the Working Group on the Right to Development and assisting in mainstreaming the right to development into the work of UN bodies and agencies, financial institutions, and international development projects.
“We therefore urge the UN Special Rapporteur to entreat the Zimbabwean Government to adopt and implement the UN Basic Principles and Guidelines on Development-based Evictions and Displacements; the Free, Prior and InformedConsent Principles; the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights; and the Zimbabwe National Human Settlements Policy — to develop a human rights-based development-based evictions/displacements mechanism,” the groups said in one of their recommendations.
“Implore the Zimbabwe independent constitutional human rights bodies (the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission and the Zimbabwe Gender Commission) to develop a joint and stakeholder inclusive development-based evictions/displacements monitoring mechanism.
“Beseech Zimbabwe to respect the ideals of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas; the UN Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities; and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples — when negotiating international investments contracts and when considering development-based evictions/displacements.