Zimbabwe: Government housing policy a sham

Hundreds of thousands still live in sub-standard conditions one year after Operation "Drive out the Rubbish"

One year after more than 700,00 people were forcibly evicted from their homes during Operation Murambatsvina (“Drive out the Rubbish”), most still live in inadequate shelter and very few have been granted government assistance, according to a new report by Amnesty International.

In June 2005, the government of Zimbabwe promised that they would provide better housing for those who lost homes through the forced evictions. This programme was called Operation Garikai / Hlalani Kuhle (“Better Life”).

However, Amnesty International has found that hardly any of the victims of the Operation Murambatsvina have benefited from the re-building programme, with just over 3,325 homes constructed – compared to 92,460 homes which were destroyed during Operation Murambatsvina. In many areas, construction has ground to a halt.

Amnesty International UK Director, Kate Allen said:

“Operation “Better Life” is little short of a public relations exercise which the government of Zimbabwe is using to cover up its mass human rights violations.

“Amnesty International has found that very few houses have been constructed. And the majority of the homes described as ”built” are actually cavernous structures which do not have doors, windows, floors, or even roofs. It’s an absolute sham and a wholly insufficient response to last year’s forced evictions.”

The majority of those whose homes were demolished after they were forcibly removed last year have been left to find their own solutions to their homelessness.

In Victoria Falls, Amnesty International researchers found a man whose home was demolished during the government’s programme now living in a room intended to be a toilet. Meanwhile in Bulawayo a widow described how she and her son now live in a bathroom in a house shared by three other families.

Amnesty International UK Director, Kate Allen said:

“What’s particularly tragic is that most of the people who were violently evicted from their homes during last year’s Operation Murambatsvina were amongst the poorest people in Zimbabwe. That operation only sought to plunge these people deeper into poverty as they lost their furniture, their clothes and their food.

“Despite this, the government of Zimbabwe has made little or no attempt to find an adequate solution to the acute shortage of adequate housing which last year’s operation so drastically exacerbated.”

Amnesty International called for Operation Garkkai/Hlalni Kuhle (“Better Life”) to be subjected to an urgent and comprehensive review to bring it in line with the Zimbabwean government’s human rights obligations. It also called on the government of Zimbabwe to seek international assistance to address the immediate housing and humanitarian needs of its population if it cannot do so itself.

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