Shelter is a basic human right

EDITOR — Chitungwiza Residents Trust (Chitrest) in its ongoing effort to avert government’s  intended house demolitions yesterday successfully created a platform at Unit O in Seke, Chitungwiza in partnership with Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) to educate and sensitise Chitungwiza and Seke rural residents on their rights, particularly the right to shelter.

Jeremiah Bamu, a prominent human rights lawyer working with the ZLHR meticulously walked a gathering of about 500 residents through the new Constitution explicitly elaborating that shelter is a fundamental human right enshrined in the country’s supreme law.

He was categorically clear that even in the preamble and the founding rights of the Zimbabwe Constitution, no space is given for the retrogressive house demolitions.

While he reminded anxious residents that the right to shelter should be read in light of other laws, for example, the Public Health Act and the Regional Town and Country Planning Act, Bamu still maintained that government should brace up for a thorough legal process if it is entertaining any hopes of house demolitions.

He said this process involves approaching the courts to seek approval to demolish houses and if granted by a magistrate, demolition orders are served to each of the concerned individuals and families who enjoy the right to appeal against that order.

If eventually any house is to be condemned to rubbles, occupants need to be compensated by the government and can only move out of their condemned place if alternative accommodation is offered.

After a full explanation of the legal terrain vis-à-vis illegal house demolitions by the ZLHR, residents unanimously called for public litigation and encouraged Chitrest to maintain the symbiotic bond with the ZLHR in the fight against the illegal house demolitions.

In his closing remarks at the half day workshop, Chitrest board treasurer, Brighton Mazhindu, reaffirmed the residents’ pressure group’s unwavering stance that house demolitions in any part of the world are illegal, inhumane, barbaric and as such should not be tolerated.

Mazhindu’s call for the two local authorities (Chitungwiza and Manyame Rural District councils) which slept on duty to regularise all residential properties received a thunderous applause from the residents in attendance.

He also warned the government against any illegal attempt to demolish houses mostly considering that the Chimowa-led investigation team did not fully consult the concerned residents as per the dictates of participatory democracy.

Programmes Coordinator,

Chitungwiza Residents Trust

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