Thousands face mass eviction from homes and market stalls in Zimbabwe

Up to 200 people from an informal settlement in the Harare suburb of Gunhill in Zimbabwe face being forcibly evicted without being given adequate notice or any consultation or due process. Thousands of vendors across Harare also face forcible removal from their market stalls.

The majority of those to be affected are poor women whose principal source of livelihood is selling fruits, vegetables and other wares at market stalls like Mbare Musika and Mupedzanhamo in Harare.

The Deputy Mayor of the Harare City Council stated in July 2009 that the city authorities are considering evicting people from “illegal settlements and market places to restore order.”  He claimed that the targeted people pose a health hazard and violate the city’s by-laws.

Amnesty International has accused the Harare City Council of being insensitive to the suffering of Harare’s poor who are struggling to survive under very difficult economic conditions.

“The wholesale prohibition of unemployed people from selling their wares prevents them from earning a living and violates their right to work. Formal unemployment in Zimbabwe is reputed to be above 90 per cent. The bulk of the urban population, particularly women, survive on informal trade. The Council must desist from taking measures that drive people deeper into poverty,” said Amy Agnew, Amnesty International’s campaigner on Zimbabwe.

“Since 2005, Amnesty International has documented cases were vendors and informal traders have repeatedly been harassed by municipal police in Harare for selling wares at ‘undesignated’ places.  They had there wares confiscated and fined,” said Amy Agnew.

“The Mayor of Harare should immediately stop any pending mass evictions from informal settlements or removal of vendors from markets in Harare. In particular, the council should give adequate and reasonable notice for affected people prior to any eviction and ensure that no one is rendered homeless or vulnerable to the violation of other human rights as a consequence of eviction.

“Where those affected are unable to provide for themselves, the council must take all appropriate measures, to the maximum of its available resources, to ensure that adequate alternative housing, resettlement or access to productive land, as the case may be, is available.”

Amnesty International said most of the people at risk of forcible eviction were victims of Operation Murambatsvina (Drive out trash), also officially known as Operation Restore Order. The programme of mass forced evictions implemented by the Zimbabwean authorities in 2005 left 700,000 people without homes and livelihoods.

Four years on, the authorities have failed to provide an effective remedy to the victims and, as a result, many continue to be at risk of being forcibly evicted from both their homes and their informal businesses.