Put forward solutions to address needs of internally displaced people

IT is more than a month after Zimbabweans participated in an election which left behind trails of jubilation and disappointment as those who support Zanu PF revel in their victory, while MDC Alliance supporters nurse the grief of the defeat. A fortnight ago, the Constitutional Court concluded the issue and it is time for our leaders from across the political divide to shift from the euphoria and disillusionment and start working to improve the condition of the ordinary person. They surely expect their leaders to fulfil their pre-election promises.

Guest column: Francis Mukora

As those who won the elections assume their new roles, they should all remember that their election was entrustment with an obligation to serve and deliver on the expectations of all Zimbabweans. From the unemployed graduate, the pensioner who endures bank queues to withdraw cash and every Zimbabwean toiling daily to feed their families, these citizens were investing in their future when they voted on July 30. They expect their representatives at all levels of government to adopt laws, policies and investments that will end the poverty that has now become endemic.

One such population section expecting an improvement in their situation is the internally displaced persons (IDPs) who have experienced the acts or threats of arbitrary displacement over the past two decades. Most of them, especially ex-commercial farm and mine workers of foreign origin or parentage, had been rendered Stateless and disenfranchised by the Citizenship Act amendment at the turn of the millennium.

Having regained those rights after adoption of the Constitution five years ago, they eagerly participated in this just-ended election anticipating an improvement in their status quo essentially because both Zanu PF and the MDC Alliance had promised a raft of reforms that could potentially improve their recovery, welfare and protection environment if implemented.

Zanu PF promised to consolidate land tenure security, eliminate multiple farm ownership, right-size farms to create space for newer settlements, provide social support services in resettlement areas and to end land baronage and irregular land allocations which had led to informal slum urban settlements. They also pledged to regularise informal urban settlements and to deliver 1,5 million houses over the next five years. Likewise, the MDC Alliance also promised to address the land ownership and tenure question, resolve the national housing shortages, improve social service delivery, regularise and upgrade informal urban slums and to provide at least two million hectares of peri-urban land for housing stands for low-income earners.

This convergence of consensus between Zanu PF and the MDC Alliance meant that implementing progressive policies in pursuit of these promises should not be problematic. After all, they both made these promises so what is just required is the political will for them to deliver. Our hope is that the deep-rooted polarisation characteristic of Zimbabwe’s body politic will not be a stumbling block to the realisation of these goals. Both Zanu PF and the MDC Alliance have a moral obligation to deliver on these promises and expectations. Afterwards they can resume their political contests.
Being the party in power, Zanu PF can take the initiative. The best start would be to ensure that the retributive political violence reportedly displacing opposition supporters and activists in some parts of the country is stopped forthwith and the perpetrators dealt with “impartially, without fear or favour” as pledged by President Emmerson Mnangagwa on his inauguration.

Afterwards, they should set out to find durable solutions to the systematic exclusion and deprivation that have been experienced by displaced communities for two decades now. Again, this should not be difficult because crucial steps in this direction have already been made over the past decade. The five-year subsistence of the unity government between Zanu PF and the two MDCs saw official acknowledgement of the existence of IDPs in Zimbabwe, which was followed by a collaborative rapid IDPs needs assessment with the United Nations, Zimbabwe’s ratification of the African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of IDPs in Africa, popularly known as the Kampala Convention and the inclusion of Section 74 providing for freedom from arbitrary eviction in the 2013 Constitution. The past twelve months alone have witnessed Zimbabwe being elected to oversee the implementation of the Kampala Convention plan of action by member states. This past February, the Commission of Inquiry created by government last year commenced investigations to establish the circumstances surrounding the sale, allocations, occupation and use of State land in and around urban areas since 2005. These crucial steps have laid a strong foundation upon which durable solutions can be created.
Government has been applauded for these progressive endeavours, but is also encouraged and assisted to do more.

Suffice also to highlight that apart from the government and political parties, everyone else also has a role to play. In an opinion editorial published in the NewsDay last year, I challenged displaced persons and communities themselves to set aside their political affiliations and collectively take the initiative to use their numbers and votes as trump cards to bargain for political commitments to provision of durable solutions to their challenges in exchange for their votes in the 2018 elections. It is encouraging that they did so and successfully engaged Zimbabwe’s two biggest political parties to commit to address these issues as demonstrated by their inclusion in both Zanu PF and MDC Alliance’s manifestos. This also demonstrates the power and potential of non-partisan, active issue-based engagement in providing durable solutions to critical issues in Zimbabwe.

Having secured the political commitment, over the next five years, focus will now be shifted on ensuring that the political parties deliver on these promises. These manifestos should not be mere political rhetoric that is nicely packaged and heavily publicised prior to an election, but thrown away once victory has been secured. They should be fulfilled and as such, both the executive and the legislature should initiate, strengthen and implement policies and investments that will improve previously displaced communities’ access to socio-economic rights and productive resources.

The recently sworn-in Ninth Parliament of Zimbabwe’s legislative agenda should focus on amending and repealing laws that have justified urban housing demolitions, while service delivery and the 2019 national budget due for presentation within the next three months should also prioritise these issues.

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