Human Rights

ZWACT educates women on land rights 

…Headmen says evictions politically motivated

RUTENDO CHIRUME

MASVINGO- Zimbabwe Women Against Corruption Trust (ZWACT) engaged women from Masvingo Rural Districts who were affected by the recent government crackdown on illegal settlers.

The operation code named ‘No to land Barons’ saw a number of women being victims, losing their property and homes as a result of the evictions.

The engagement meeting sought to educate women on rights to land and how they can prevent being evicted or fall victims to land corruption in future.

The meeting was held in Masvingo with over 20 participants drawn from the seven rural districts in the province.

ZWACT’s main mandate is to fight corruption on behalf of women and the girl child and it is based in Harare.

ZWACT programs officer, Matilda Nehohwa said apart from educating women the organization creates a platform for them to share their experiences and concerns on availability and accessibility of public services.

“In most cases these evictions affect women the most as they are mostly in the villages with the family while the men are in the city

“The objectives of this engagement is to raise awareness about gender based corruption and its impact on women’s access to land rights, identify the specific challenges faced by internally displaced persons due to land corruption, eviction and related issues,

“We discuss the risks and vulnerabilities of women, exposing corruption related to land rights as well as exploring ways that create safe and supportive environment or mechanisms for women to report corruption and protect them from victimization,

“Land corruption has a disproportionate negative impact on women which increases existing gender inequalities and vulnerabilities which has negative impacts including displacement, homelessness, increased gender based violence as there are a lot of barriers in seeking legal recourse due to gender bias, lack of awareness and limited access to resources and legal representation,” said Nehohwa.

Speaking during the event, ZWACT legal advisor, Madock Chivasa said that there is need to review the Constitution as most laws were adopted from the Smith era which is vague on the traditional leaders’ role in the allocation of land.

He also stressed that most of the evictions were illegal after the affected women said they were forced to move out without being shown any eviction orders from the police or the court.

“After everything has been said and done the most important step forward is revisiting the constitution to suit the present day situation.

“Most of the laws in the constitution were made to favor the colonial era and our government has adopted it because they are also benefitting from the archaic laws.

“The traditional leaders Act gives chiefs and their headman to allocate land but with no title deeds which needs to be revised because these areas are under their jurisdiction.

“The Constitution gives every citizen certain rights which include the right to land which are mentioned in Section 71 and 73 which address acquisition, deprivation of property rights and right to agricultural land.

“Not just right to land, but many other rights were violated during the eviction with attention to Section 35, Section 66, Section 62 and Section 51 because there was no access to information prior to this process.

“You should be aware of all this to avoid being bullied,

“All the evictions that you faced were illegal because before carrying out the evictions there must be due process which should be followed like court order before the police pounce on your homestead,” said Chivasa.

 Sikato Village Head in Masvingo West constituency, Henry Makusha castigated their local representatives for only thinking about themselves with paying attention to the plight of the electorate.

“We are powerless when issues of land have escalated to this level, we are used as political tools for other people and we have no voice or anyway to turn to for help.

“We are not given any powers to the land or title deeds, we just show our subjects a piece  of land after it has been approved by the Chief but he also has no title deeds.

“At the same time I blame our legislators who go to Parliament to drink tea and sleep in nice rooms, because when we are faced with such problems they are nowhere to be seen yet they claim to be our representatives,

“I feel, traditional leaders should be given title deeds to protect their villagers in case of future eviction happening.

 “A lot is happening but all I can see is these evictions are politically motivated as there are some people who want to take credit after these evictions have stopped,” said an irate Makusha.

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