#Mots-clés : Eviction, Land Grabbing Dernière mise à jour le 7 June 2019
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Many archaeological and prehistoric show that the human presence in the region is attested as early as 500 000 years before our era. It is believed that the first people of Zimbabwe were the Bushmen. The establishment of the Bantu-speaking farmers have begun the threshold of our era. The ancestors of the Shona were probably the origin of the civilization they came into contact with Swahili traders from the East African coast. From the twelfth century, the work of copper, such as trade in gold and ivory, were considerably developed, these products being exported through the port of Sofala, near present-day Beira in Mozambique.

It was also around the site of Zimbabwe that flourished from the fourteenth century, the kingdom of Monomotapa (Mwene Mutapa, “King of the mines”) which experienced a rapid territorial expansion, but declined at the end of the next century, after the king’s death in 1480 Matope.

The Portuguese, who landed on the coast of Mozambique in the sixteenth century, knotted contacts, through missionaries in particular, with the Monomotapa. The kingdom was lost after his sovereign had, in 1608, ceded to the Portuguese mines of gold, tin, copper and iron in its territory. South Changamire State took over and conquered almost the whole of the ancient kingdom in the seventeenth century. At the end of the eighteenth century, the Zulu of South Africa came in their wake destroyed the kingdom of Changamire. Zulu dissident group, the Ndebele, settled around 1830, in the south-west of the country, imposing its domination in Shona.

From 1890 to 1980 the country was a colony of the United Kingdom (Southern Rhodesia). The current state of Zimbabwe emerged in 1980 after a violent anti-colonial struggle. The main guerrilla group has held power since 1980 (although it has been the major party in a GNU since 2009). A new constitution was prepared in 2010-2013.


Population : 12,973 million (2002 : 11,6 million) Annual average growth rate (2002-2012) : 1,1% Population density (people per sq km) : 33

Source: CensusPreliminary2012.pdf (retrieved 21 January 2013)


Political instability since 2000 has resulted in the collapse of the economy and substantial emigration (+- 3 million). There may be as many as 1 million internally displaced people as a result of various factors.


The Khoisan are the oldest inhabitants of the country and their presence is attested in Southern Africa for more than 8000 years. They are agricultural people.


There were no cities before colonial times while the colonists maintained restrictions on urban migration and for much of the colonial period, cities were regarded as sites of accumulation not settlement. Even today there is an ambivalence towards cities. There was a marked migration to urban centres during the 1970’s because of the anti-colonial war.

The failure of the government to introduce effective policies that would benefit the poor has led to disillusionment in both the rural and urban areas. Harsh economic policies in recent years have led to an increase in informal urban settlements as people have been unable to access much needed but expensive housing in the formal sector.

The increased movement of people into the urban areas began in the late 1980s and continued into the 1990s. Those in the rural areas originally moved to urban areas to improve their livelihoods. The land reform program in 2000 and 2001 also accelerated the influx into the urban areas due to an increase in rural unemployment, uncertainty over tenure for a large number of people, and lack of access to productive land leading for most of those living in the rural areas. Thousands of ex-farm workers moved to the urban areas. Political violence during elections in 2000 and 2002 in the rural areas also increased the influx of people to the urban areas.


About 30% of Zimbabweans are urban, although there are still strong ties with rural homes as well as seasonal migration. In 2005 Operation Murambatsvina lead to the destruction of many homes in urban areas. Five top urban centres and approximate population (Census, 2012)

  • Harare 1,5 million
  • Bulawayo 655 000
  • Chitungwiza 350 000
  • Mutare 188 000
  • Gweru 160 000


Most Zimbabweans live in rural areas under traditional systems based on communal land ownership under the jurisdiction of chiefs and headmen. Many areas are degraded and suffer from under-development. Approximately 300,000 families have been resettled on land seized from white commercial farmers since 2000.

Zimbabwe has a hybrid, or plural, legal system in the sense that the law currently in force was adopted from foreign jurisdictions and imposed into the country by settlers during the colonial era. Zimbabwe’s law after several years of independence still exposes residual traits of the process of transplantation of historical disempowerments and colonial takeover.

Zimbabwe’s legal system consist of the Common law (non statutory or unwritten Anglo Roman Dutch Law), Legislation Case Law and Customary Law. With the exception of Criminal Law, Zimbabwe’s Law is not codified. The colonial and legal history of Zimbabwe is interconnected and interrelated to the history of South Africa’s legal developments and colonial development.


The Declaration of Rights, found in Chapter III of Constitution provides protection from governmental Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and provides for the protection from governmental interference with property in Section 16 (“Protection from Deprivation of Property”). Both Section 16 and the Regional Town and Country Planning Act of 1976 extend procedural safeguards, but still “no law exists in Zimbabwe that prohibits arbitrary evictions and grant a measure of protection of tenure to the persons who could be affected.”

In Zimbabwe, The Constitution explicitly guarantees the right of its citizens to be protected from arbitrary deprivation of property (section 16) and Part V of the Planning Act also. But the reality shows that arbitrary evictions continue.


Though the Governement of Zimbabwe, under the rule of President Robert Mugabe, has recognized “the right of every one to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including (…) food, clothing and housing…” it has done little to comply with its international obligations and rectify the humanitarian crises now facing a vast sector of its population.

Over the last years, the huge demand for housing in cities such Harare, and expensive city council rental rates, has led to the spread of unplanned (and thus illegal under national law) cottages behind legal dwellings, including small cottages and cabins in the poor high density urban areas of Zimbabwe. Instead of waiting years for the local city council to allocate accommodation to them, many of the urban poor built their own unplanned cabins and cottages behind legally recognized and approved dwellings. many of those affected by evictions (+/- 2005) were lodgers renting these small cabins behind main houses.

In a state report (Zimbabwe State Party Report – 1995), the government accepted that no legislation existed in Zimbabwe to regularize the situation of those living in “illegal” sector or that prohibited forced evictions. In response to Zimbabwe’s report, the Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) noted (1997), “the situation to the right to housing remains clearly inadequate. The committee is particularly concerned about the precarious situation of persons living in illegal structures or unauthorized housing. Persons should not be subjected to forced eviction unless this is done under conditions compatible with the covenant.” As one Harare City Council official told Human Rights Watch, “the city council was aware about the unplanned settlements and extensions but could not do anything about it. When we wanted to do something, we were politically stopped but now we are being politically encouraged to evict the people.” By 2005, the national list for accommodation was reportedly up to 2 million persons.

Some of the violations Human Rights Watch has documented include the excessive use of force by members of the army and police, reports of ill-treatment and torture by the police and other state-sponsored agents, disregard for the rule of law, restrictions on the rights to freedom of opinion and expression, peaceful assembly and association, and discrimination in access to food aid.

In this context (2005), the government has implemented the Operation Murambatsvina (Clear the Filth) : police burnt, bulldozed and destroyed tens of thousands of properties around the country ! The destructions resulted in the mass evictions of urban dwellers from housing structures and the closure of various informal sector businesses throughout the country. According to United Nations, 700,000 people (nearly 6% of the total population) have been forcibly evicted from their home. According to government officials, the evictions and demolitions were “aimed at restoring order and sanity throughout the capital … the need to prevent disorderly urbanization and stopping illegal market transactions in the informal economic sector”.

Images on BBC website : BBC News

Video from CHRA (Combine Harare Residents Association), encouraging the population to participate at the political process and pre-made solutions. Video on IAI Website



Promoting access to land for the majority of the indigenous people was expected to create stability in land property rights. The Fast Track Land Reform Programme (FTLR, 2000) entailed a comprehensive redistribution of land that was accomplished with considerable anarchy, disorder and violence. With about 11 million hectares changing hands within a three-year period, it was the largest property transfer ever to occur in the region in peacetime (Sachikonye: 2005). The FTLR resulted in the displacement of nearly 4,000 white commercial farmers whose land had been transferred by the state to 7,200 black commercial farmers and 127,000 black recipients of small farms by October 2003. As a result a completely new set of social relations were to emerge

The Fast Track Land Reform Programme (FTLRP)launched in 2000 amid chaotic land occupations by landless peasants and war veterans has seen most white commercial farmers being displaced from the land with around seven million hectares being taken over for small holder farmers (Scoones et al 2010). Prior to the FTLR the majority African farmers were overcrowded in communal areas. Due to land hunger, the peasants began to invade white-owned farms to settle their families and to improve their livelihoods. This saw the majority of white farmers being displaced from the farms. Initially the process was characterised by violence and chaos but later the government began to rationalise the occupations and implemented proper planning (Chaumba et al 2003). It is clear that in spite of the violence and the controversies surrounding the FTLRP, the programme provided a large number of formerly landless people with land and new livelihood portfolios.

Local land users are marginalised in the land deals which the government is entering into with private investors. Local land users have suffered most in the face of large scale investors who use their connections with political elites to acquire land for various agribusinesses. The bio-fuels projects in Zimbabwe and other such projects have led to the displacement and marginalisation of small holder farmers.


  • Joungpeople
  • Old people
  • Women


Social and economic aspects






In the late 1990s, the central government also encouraged the formation of housing cooperatives in the urban areas in an attempt to reduce the housing deficit. Women – who were identified as being most in need of housing – were encouraged to join housing cooperatives in an effort to ensure they had affordable housing. Local city council authorities allocated housing stands (plots) after interested buyers paid a deposit for their development. (plots = demarcated pieces of land for building a house or property). The authorities provided such buyers with forms to sign, and plans and documents proving their ownership and then allocated the stands. many of the cooperatives had electricity and water supplies provided by the council and the owners paid monthly water and electricity rates.

Point of view from residents : “This type of habitat is very important in Zimbabwe. It is due to the phenomenon of expulsion from urban centers to rural areas. The Government gives a certificate granting them expelled unserviced land. However, local authorities may at their discretion whether to recognize the title, which in turn leads to further deportations and phenomena of corruption, the absence of a true legal status. The idea is deemed interesting by the basic movements, but on condition to fool guards to prevent abuses”.

Cultural aspects – Religious – Symbolic

Environmental aspects

Bibliography & Sitography

  • Mass Forced Evictions and the Human Right to adequate Housing in Zimbabwe, Sean Romero : Sean Romero’s Study
  • “Clear the Filth” – Mass Evictions and Demolitions in Zimbabwe, A Human Right Watch Briefing Paper, 2005. HRW Briefing Paper.
  • Africities Summit – Dakar – december 2012.
  • “Operation restore the right to housing in Zimbabwe”, International Alliance of Inhabitants zero evictions campaign IAI
  • Hauser Global Law School Program : GlobaLex Website
  • Large Scale Investment Projects and Land Grabs in Zimbabwe : the case of Nuannetsi Ranch Bio-Diesel Project, by Joseph Mujere and Sylvester Dombo, Land Deals Politics Initiative (LDPI), 2011.
  • Zimbabwe Situation – Daily News Website Zimbabwe Situation
  • Republic of Zimbabwe, Laval University (Canada) Website Laval University




  • The creation of a federal agency to oversee a transparent and equitable allocation of land and would conduct the monitoring / control the proper use of these lands.
  • The establishment by the Government of a system / organization that would allow people to learn to manage a cooperative.


  • HOUSING PEOPLE IN ZIMBABWE = housing co-operative movement. The organization is committed to meeting their needs. They believe in a democratic co-operative housing movement that emphasises gender equity and empowerment of all its constituency. They are responsible and professional in the delivery of these services. They are socially responsible to the community in which they live. They believe community participation to be a fundamental component of their activities. Power Point of presentation on HIC network or on Kubata website
  • ZIMBABWE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF HOUSING COOPERATIVES – ZINAHCO = community organization non-profit founded in 1993. Their goal is to strengthen the capacity of housing cooperatives – provide support services and accommodation – promote networking of cooperatives – perform lobbying and advocacy – providing assistance to access materials and financing – specific attention to gender issues, AIDS, the environment, youth. Website ZINAHCO.
  • THE KUBATANA TRUST = An organization that joins the network of NGOs (NGO Network Alliance Project – NNAP) whose objective is to create a network of civil society organizations in Zimbabwe. Via their website, it is possible to identify these organizations to have access to legal information, get short articles or studies on the news of the country, etc.. A portal and resource site on Zimbabwe. Website Kubatana.
  • NGO NETWORK ALLIANCE PROJECT NNAP = platform of more than 130 Zimbabwean NGOs and other organizations of civil society working in various fields. This project started in March 2001 and has a portal (Kubatana) to share the information in all these areas. Website.
  • DIALOGUE ON SHELTER FOR THE HOMELESS IN ZIMBABWE TRUST = association that brings together a network of communities working to improve their living conditions, despite the economic and political problems of the country. contact them or via Homeless International.
  • ZIMBABWE HOMELESS PEOPLE’S FEDERATION = a network of 47,000 slum dwellers living throughout Zimbabwe. Contact them via Homeless International – See a video made by Slum Dweller International