Zim denies plan to evict settlement residents

Zimbabwe on Thursday denied claims that the government was planning mass evictions from a settlement outside the capital, Harare.

Amnesty International said one month ago that the government had threatened about 20 000 residents of Hatcliffe Extension with eviction if they failed to pay a $140 “lease renewal fee” — an unaffordable sum for the settlement’s impoverished residents.

“I wish to categorically state that no such thing, and I repeat no such thing or action, has been planned or is being planned,” Housing Minister Giles Mutseyekwa said, according to the state-run news agency, New Ziana.

Many Hatcliffe residents are victims of a 2005 eviction campaign called Operation Murambatsvina (Drive Out Filth) that forced 700 000 people from their homes when President Robert Mugabe’s government destroyed shacks and vendor stands.

The government promised to build houses and vending stands for the victims of Murambatsvina, but only a handful of houses were built.

Last week, the European Parliament adopted a resolution calling on Zimbabwe “to scrap the arbitrarily imposed lease renewal fees, which residents simply have no means of paying”

Mutseyekwa said the government had developed pro-poor housing schemes to ensure that no one is evicted from a settlement area unless alternative lodging has been arranged.

In August police in Harare set fire to about 250 houses in an informal settlement, a move condemned by human rights groups. — AFP

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