On the 20th of June 2020 Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights), led by Harare Vice Chair Ms Sarah Njanji – visited Epworth’s Bella-Paise Estate, formerly McDonald’s farm (kwaDhonoro) to verify a case of illegal eviction of residents – a threat to their right to shelter. ZimRights learnt that on the 19th of June 2020, 2 truckloads of Harare Municipal Police numbering close to a hundred, arrived and distributed eviction notices to every household and the notice ordered the residents to demolish their structures and vacate the area within 48hrs.
Section 74 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe 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.” Also the obligation of States to refrain from, and protect against, forced evictions from home(s) and land arises from several international legal instruments that protect the human right to adequate housing and other related human rights. These include the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (art. 11, para. 1), the Convention on the Rights of the Child (art. 27, para. 3), the non discrimination provisions found in article 14, paragraph 2 (h), of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and article 5 (e) of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
However, the residents, numbering over 10000 families, who have been residing in the area since September 1999, are resisting the eviction citing illegality and political manipulation. The residents through local councillor Mr Chiromo, allege that the source of their eviction is one Paul Baisa, the chairperson of the rival Green Valley housing cooperative. Baisa is said to have incorporated high ranking army, police and government officials into his cooperative and they now want to evict the residents in order to make way for themselves. During the verifications, Zimrights noticed a tense atmosphere and the residents’ anger towards Baisa was palpable. On the day the municipal police came to deliver the notices, were threatened with mob justice and had to be rescued by the Zimbabwe Republic Police and the Zimbabwe National Army, who are camped at the nearby Epworth Police Station and enforcing the lockdown.
Interestingly, Baisa was among the first residents to settle at the farm, and occupied the farmhouse, during the fast track land resettlement program, until they fell out after some disagreements. He went on to form 3 more housing cooperatives which, the residents allege, are just ways of fleecing desperate home seekers.
The area lies between Harare South and Epworth Constituencies, and jurisdiction is between the Harare City council and Epworth Local board. Epworth is located 15km from the Harare Central business District and is largely an informal settlement and considered one of the most poorest settlements in Zimbabwe.
Report Issued by
Mashingaidze T. (Mr)
Provincial Chairperson Harare