Some 20,000 people who live in an ultra-poor shanty town in Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare could be forced out of their homes.
Hatcliffe Extension is a makeshift community where people were given small plots of land after the authorities started mass evictions from other shantytowns across the country in 2005.
And now as the government effectively prices them out of the area, these people risk being uprooted again.
The government is demanding as much as $140 or just under £100 to renew leases on people’s plots there, says rights group, Amnesty International. The price is way out of reach of most people in the south African nation, a country with a shattered economy whose own currency is worthless.
"Residents of Hatcliffe Extension are among the poorest and most marginalized in Zimbabwean society and many households have no means of paying the lease renewal fee, especially as a lump sum," said Amnesty International’s Michelle Kagari. "Instead of threatening vulnerable people with eviction, the government must provide protection from the cycle of insecurity and further violations by providing security of tenure and affordable payment plans for leases."
In 2005, the government staged a mass nationwide forced evictions programme from the shanty towns across the country called Operation Murambatsvina, which translates as operation drive out rubbish. At least 700,000 people lost their homes and livelihoods and about 2.4 million people were affected, according to figures from the United Nations.
Only a small number were resettled. Most were forced into overcrowded existing housing stock while others were forced by the government to go back to the countryside. Five years after the mass forced evictions, residents are surviving in deplorable conditions in plastic shacks without access to basic essential services.
In June, the authorities put up signs at Hatcliffe Extension saying that all leaseholders should pay to renew their agreements by yesterday. Failure to pay means residents will lose their land which would then be given to others on the housing list.
“Residents at Hatcliffe have been utterly let down by the government. It is therefore all the more shocking that instead of taking steps to improve their current situation, the government is threatening action that will certainly increase suffering and deprivation.” Amnesty’s Ms Kagari said yesterday.
"Instead of threatening vulnerable people with eviction, the government must provide protection from the cycle of insecurity and further violations by providing security of tenure and affordable payment plans for leases."