This week my eldest sister came to inquire about money owed to her by some organisation that promised to reimburse cash after failing to get the property she was promised.
ROPAFADZO MAPIMHIDZE SATURDAY DIALOGUE
This scheme apparently involves over 10 people from a Kadoma health institution and possibly thousands more from around Zimbabwe who have been let down by people purporting to assist ordinary citizens with land to build houses.
What is most intriguing is that this scheme actually received money from monthly deductions through the Salary Services Bureau (SSB), but nothing seems to be forthcoming many years later.
“I asked the people at the offices for a refund because it has become evident that there is no land that was promised, but they are saying they will charge me 30% for the process and yet I had also paid 30% for my name to be registered on this scheme,” she said.
Such is the predicament of the millions and millions of Zimbabweans who continue to be conned by the many housing cooperatives or land barons.
But the right to adequate housing is founded and recognised under international law, which Zimbabwe is signatory to.
Enunciated under article 25(1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the right to adequate housing has been codified in other major international human rights treaties.
Article 11(1) of the ICESCR (Circle of Rights, Economic, and Cultural Rights) provides that “States Parties to the present Covenant recognise the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate . . . housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions.”
Many national constitutions and municipal laws in an increasing number of states around the world now embody express or implied provisions on the right to adequate housing.
They further strengthen the basis for claiming implementation of that right at the domestic level.
A recent example is the 1996 Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, which expressly guarantees the right to adequate housing and prohibits the practice of forced eviction.
The Constitution provides that:
1.Everyone has the right to have access to adequate housing.
2.The State must take reasonable legislative and other means, within its available resources, to achieve the progressive realisation of this right.
3.No one may be evicted from their home, or have their home demolished, without an order of court made after considering all the relevant circumstances. No legislation may permit arbitrary evictions.
However, there seems to be no safety net to protect Zimbabweans from such eventualities, or if there are, none are being followed.
These land barons sometimes disappear into thin air after they have collected enough to meet their greedy lifestyles and because some are allegedly linked to political heavy weights, there is no recourse for these poor people.
Not so long ago, I heard a woman wailing near my workplace demanding monies she had contributed since 2009, when she realised that the promises made by the so called agent were just empty.
It is a true fact that the State cannot adequately meet the needs for shelter for everyone, but it is imperative for the government to properly monitor operations of some of these so called land barons so that land seekers rights are not violated.
State obligations vis-à-vis the right to adequate housing are frequently misunderstood.
They do not mean that the State is required to build housing for the entire population, or that housing should be provided free of charge to the population.
Rather, recognition of the right to housing by a State means that the State undertakes to endeavour by all appropriate means to ensure that everyone has access to affordable and acceptable housing.
Or that the State will undertake a series of measures which indicate policy and legislative recognition of each of the constituent aspects of the right to housing.
The State should protect and improve houses and neighbourhoods rather than damage or destroy them like what may happen to Chitungwiza houses that are scheduled for demolition because they were built on wetlands and infills.
The right to housing is more than simply a right to shelter.
It is a right to have somewhere to live that is adequate. Whether housing is adequate depends on a range of factors including that include legal security of tenure; availability of services, materials, facilities and infrastructure; affordability; accessibility and habitability.
I will be following the case involving my sister closely and see how this matter will be solved.
It is unfair to take advantage of desperate people seeking land yet they would have been paying towards these schemes with expectation of realising shelter.
The government should come hard on heels on such organisations especially the ones that get cash directly from employers like I mentioned earlier.
Who would have doubted a scheme that has made arrangements for stop orders from civil servants salaries?
To protect effectively the housing rights of a population, the government must ensure that any possible violations of these rights by property developers are prevented.
Where such infringements occur, relevant public authorities should act to prevent any further deprivations and guarantee to affected persons access to legal remedies of redress for any infringement caused.
It is also imperative for our government to ensure creation of judicial, quasi-judicial, administrative or political enforcement mechanisms capable of providing redress to alleged victims of any infringement of the right to adequate housing.