News / Africa

Amnesty International: Hundreds of Thousands Homeless in Zimbabwe

Amnesty International is accusing Zimbabwe's unity government of failing to compensate hundreds of thousands of people who were forcibly evicted from their homes in 2005.

Amnesty International's Simeon Mawanza says people who were evicted from their homes in 2005 are still destitute.

"Many of them live in shacks," said Simeon Mawanza. "Many of them live in settlements that were established with no water, with no education facilities, with no access to health services and their lives have deteriorated."

Operation Murambatsvina was launched by President Robert Mugabe's government in May 2005.  The government destroyed informal settlements across the country and Amnesty International says more than 700,000 people were left without a home or livelihood.

A rehousing program launched later in the year aimed to provide shelter for those who were left homeless, but the program failed to meet its housing targets.  Mawanza says the government is neglecting the problem.

"Many of these people in these settlements feel abandoned by the government, including by the unity government which has been in place for a whole year," said Mawanza.

Zimbabwe Minister of National Housing Fidelis Mhashu says the government is addressing the homeless problem.

"We are also looking at the whole nation, those who do not have accommodation and those who are on the housing list throughout the country," he said.

He says Zimbabwe has not had the financial resources to solve the problem, but he says the government has acquired new land that can be used to re-house people.  

"Through the land-reform program some farms were acquired," he said.  "So it is this source of land acquisition that we are getting land from, land that surround urban areas, and while agreed that it would be compensated for.  So the land is there, that is where we are getting it from," said Mhashu.

Amnesty International says the forced evictions forced Zimbabweans not only from their homes, but also from their market stalls, which meant that many lost their means of earning a living.  Amnesty says women make up the majority of market traders and have been the worst hit.

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