Swaziland: Housing demolitions leave dozens homeless

Dozens of people, including more than 30 children, were left homeless after their homes were demolished by 20 armed police and bulldozers in the farming area of Embetseni in Malkerns town, Amnesty International said today.

This latest demolition of homes exposes the grim reality facing many people in Swaziland today
Muleya Mwananyanda, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Southern Africa

The demolition, which saw 61 people forcibly evicted from their homes, took place on 9 April. Some of those rendered homeless were forced to spend the night in a chicken shed.

“This latest demolition of homes exposes the grim reality facing many people in Swaziland today. Hundreds have been forced from their homes in recent years to make way for development,” said Muleya Mwananyanda, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Southern Africa.

“Despite supposed protection by the country’s laws, ordinary Swazis appear to be helpless in the face of forced evictions for development purposes.”

According to international human rights standards, even where evictions are deemed to be justified, they must follow due process. No one should be left homeless as a result of the eviction.

The affected people were not provided with any alternative accommodation, forcing some of them to take refuge at a local school. Others slept in the open at the site of the demolitions with their belongings, while some slept in a chicken shed. One family slept at the Chief’s residence.

Amnesty International is aware of at least two other imminent evictions in the Madonsa and Mbondzela regions where the communities have been living under threat of eviction for several years.

evictions plunge people into deeper poverty and leave them in a hugely precarious position
Muleya Mwananyanda

“These ongoing ruthless evictions plunge people into deeper poverty and leave them in a hugely precarious position. When a person is thrown onto the streets without any alternative accommodation, what are they supposed to do?” said Muleya Mwananyanda.

“Swazi authorities must halt these forced evictions, put in place legal and procedural safeguards in line with international human rights standards and provide effective remedies to all those who have been affected by forced evictions in the past.”

Background

The eviction of residents of Embetseni was carried out in pursuance of a High Court order of July 2017, in the presence of the Sheriff of the High Court of Mbabane and 20 armed police.

The land in question has been the subject of a longstanding occupancy dispute between the families living on it, and a private farming company that owns the land.

The affected community heard rumors of their imminent eviction from a policeman on 6 April. They then responded by calling a meeting with the Swaziland police on the evening of the following day. During the meeting, the community was served with the High Court eviction order dated 14 July 2017.

Swaziland has a long history of forced evictions, which have been documented by Amnesty International.