Fresh evictions feared as Chombo stokes up persecution and displacement of villagers

Zimbabwe Lawyers For Human Rights (ZLHR) condemns in the strongest possible terms utterances attributed to the minister of Local Government, Rural and Urban Development, Ignatius Chombo as reported in an article published in the State-run Chronicle newspaper on Friday 11 May 2012, entitled “Kick out gays: Minister”.

Ignatius Chombo
Ignatius Chombo

In the article, minister Chombo is alleged to have urged chiefs to banish “people who support homosexuality” from their communities and take away their land.According to the newspaper article, Chombo made the remarks when he addressed hundreds of villagers during the installation of Vusumuzi Nicodmus Mabhikwa in Jotsholo, Lupane, Matabeleland North province as Chief Mabhikwa Khumalo.

ZLHR is concerned that such utterances will give rise to an increase in incidents of harassment, persecution, as well as unlawful arbitrary evictions and seizure of property, which evictions and deprivations are a violation of our national laws, as well as the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, to which Zimbabwe is a signatory.

Chombo’s appetite for forced evictions, especially in the month of May,is reminiscent of the scorched earth programme of Operation Murambatsvina which had far-reaching consequences on a large portion of the Zimbabwean population.

Such political grandstanding serves only to highlight the blatant disrespect for the rule of law and to underline the lack of sincerity by a minister from apolitical party which pretends to support economic and social justice – particularly land rights – for the majority poor of Zimbabwe.

Instead, Chombo should be ashamed of his, and the government’s failure to provide adequate alternative accommodation and/or compensation to those people who were left homeless and jobless almost 7 years ago.

By inciting villagers and chiefs to target “people who support homosexuality”, and linking the debate to the purported support of homosexuality and same-sex marriages by other political parties in Zimbabwe, it is clear that Chombo is seeking to mislead people, and to initiate a witch-hunt within peace-loving communities.

It is clear that this will then be used as a pretext to clamp down on political opponents as the country moves towards a fresh election, drive out perceived supporters of alternative political parties on the basis that they “support homosexuality”, and increase internal displacement so that people will find it difficult to vote during the polls.

It is the greatest scandal that seven years on, victims of Operation Murambatsvina are still left to survive in plastic shacks without basic services. Because these victim’s voices have for long been consistently ignored, ZLHR fears that their needs are at risk of being totally forgotten.

It is also shameful that instead of ensuring due process and respect for human rights by speeding up the provision of alternative and adequate accommodation to those whom the government made homeless, Chombo finds it appropriate to threaten another Murambatsvina on rural dwellers.

The minister, and others who have been and continue to speak on public platforms in similar vein, should refrain from such irresponsible utterances that have the effect of impacting arbitrarily on the peoples’ constitutionally protected rights to property, protection of the law, and protection from arbitrary or forced evictions and internal displacement.

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