Civil Protection Unit
Development Trust of Zimbabwe
Early Childhood Development
Internally Displaced Persons
International Organization for Migration
Southern African Development Community
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance
World Food Programme
Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front
Zimbabwe Bio-Energy Company
Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation
Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission
Zimbabwe National Water Authority
We are now homeless, landless, and destitute.... I see no reason to live.
I lost everything.
—Retired soldier and flood victim, Kenneth Hlavano, Chingwizi resettlement, Section C, June 12, 2014
In February 2014, Zimbabwe’s immense Tokwe-Mukorsi Dam basin flooded following heavy rains. Under construction since 1998, the 1.8 million cubic liter dam is intended to provide irrigation and electricity to communities in the semi-arid southern Masvingo province. It is currently slated for completion by the end of 2015.
President Robert Mugabe immediately declared the floods a national disaster and appealed to the international community for US$20 million to help relocate and provide humanitarian assistance to those affected. Shortly after the flooding, the Zimbabwe army and the Civil Protection Unit (CPU) relocated over 20,000 people (around 3,300 families) from the flooded Tokwe-Mukorsi Dam basin to Chingwizi camp on Nuanetsi Ranch in Masvingo’s Mwenezi district. The government shut down the camp in August in an attempt to permanently relocate the families on a different part of Nuanetsi Ranch where each family was allocated a one-hectare plot of land. The families would now have significantly less land than they previously owned when they were in Masvingo.
Masvingo Provincial Affairs Minister Kudakwashe Bhasikiti, said the families, in their new Nuanetsi location, would only grow sugar cane for a planned government-owned ethanol project. The reasoning behind families being asked to grow sugar cane was that it would help the project achieve profitability quicker than if families were given option to grow other crops. Bhasikiti said that because the Tokwe-Mukorsi dam is still under construction, it would take about seven years for the ethanol project – a sugar cane irrigation scheme – to be established, during which time, flood victims say, they will have no source of livelihood. Bhasikiti said the families were resettled there to enable them to benefit from the sugar cane irrigation scheme when it eventually becomes operational.
Today, a year after the disaster, these 3,300 families are completely dependent on aid for food and shelter on Nuanetsi Ranch, and are unable to build permanent homes as ownership of the land is in dispute.
This report is based research conducted between March and August 2014 in Chingwizi camp, Masvingo, and in Harare with flood victims, a government minister, local authorities, lawyers, human rights activists, representatives of five nongovernmental organizations that provided services at the camp between February and August when government shut down the camp. In addition, Human Rights Watch interviewed national journalists and representatives of United Nations agencies in Zimbabwe.
The report documents human rights issues related to the dam project, conditions at Chingwizi camp to which the flood victims were initially relocated, abuses related to the resettlement of the flood victims, including the government’s failure to compensate many of them and to grant them the right to have a say in the decision regarding their residence. The report also explores the government’s misuse of humanitarian aid to coerce flood victims to accept official resettlement plans and documents the resettlement of the flood victims on Nuanetsi Ranch where they are unable to build homes or grow crops of their choice as the title of the land is in dispute.
The report found that from the outset, the dam project was fraught with human rights problems, which have multiplied since the floods and the relocation of those in the waters’ path. Before construction, the government did not adequately consult local residents about their needs, or the effect the dam would have on their lives. After the floods, Zimbabwe’s government failed to protect flood victims’ rights, or honor promises regarding compensation and resettlement.
Furthermore, both the Masvingo provincial government and the central government have coerced the displaced to accept the one-hectare sites (instead of the five-hectare sites initially promised) with violence, harassment, and in some cases restricting access to water, food, and other essentials. “Food assistance will only be given to those families who agree to move to their permanent plots, because we need to decongest Chingwizi temporary camp,” Minister for Local Government Ignatious Chombo said in early April.Between May 20 and 23, for example, armed soldiers demolished food storage warehouses at Chingwizi camp and relocated them to the site of the one-hectare plots in Bongo and Nyoni, 20 kilometers away within Nuanetsi Ranch. Other steps taken to coerce flood victims, said Chingwizi camp leaders, include government officials directing groups working at Chingwizi camp to demolish camp toilets, close down the camp school and shut down its only clinic in early August 2014. Minister Bhasikiti said the government decided to shut down Chingwizi camp because resettlement plots were ready for the flood victims to occupy and that the government had initially set up the camp as a temporary emergency measure following the floods.
Minister Bhasikiti told Human Rights Watch that all the families agreed to resettle voluntarily, and were grateful to the government for the opportunity to be part of a commercial sugar cane farming scheme. He maintained that a small group of people effectively held other flood victims hostage at Chingwizi camp and prevented them from accepting government resettlement. However, during visits to Chingwizi camp on three occasions, Human Rights Watch found no evidence that a small group was coercing people not to resettle. The government used armed anti-riot police to forcibly move the flood victims from Chingwizi camp into resettlement on Nuanetsi ranch.
At issue for many flood victims is the lack of government compensation and the new, smaller plots that they said limits their ability to grow enough crops to feed their families. The flood victims contend that until the irrigation scheme becomes fully operational, they will not have a sustainable source of livelihood.
In effect, the flood victims have been internally displaced and the government of Zimbabwe is failing to fulfill its obligation to assist and protect IDPs in the country. In addition, the government is coercing the displaced into resettlement in violation of its domestic and international obligations. These obligations include the United Nations Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, which provide an authoritative restatement of existing international law as it relates to the protection of internally displaced persons, including those affected by natural or human-made disasters.
Under international standards, displaced persons have the right to an adequate standard of living; access to essential food and potable water, basic housing, clothing, and essential medical services and sanitation. Those living in camps have the right to freely seek opportunities for employment and to participate in economic activities; displaced children have the right to education; all humanitarian assistance must be provided without discrimination and should not be diverted for political reasons; and authorities must provide displaced persons with objective, accurate information, and include them in the decision-making process that lead to their voluntary return or resettlement, or to remaining in the place where they sought refuge. In addition, governments should ensure that those evicted have the right to adequate compensation for any property affected; while all feasible alternatives to evictions must be explored in consultation with affected persons, with a view to avoiding, or at least minimizing use of force.
The treatment of those displaced by the Tokwe-Mukorsi dam also contravenes every standard for dealing with internal displacement related to development projects. The UN, the African Union (AU), the World Bank, and many other donors and humanitarian organizations, have stressed that basic human rights must be respected at every stage of displacement and resettlement. UN agencies involved in humanitarian response in Zimbabwe have failed to publicly criticize the government for its failure to provide a long-term solution for IDPs.
Human Rights Watch calls on Zimbabwe’s government, in accordance with its domestic and international obligations, to ensure protection of the rights of Tokwe-Mukorsi flood victims. The government should immediately ensure they received adequate food, shelter, safe drinking water, access to sanitation and other basic aid, and should stop misusing humanitarian assistance and conditioning survival aid—an unconditional right—on resettlement. The government should compensate flood victims and allow them to choose their site of residence, according to the United Nations Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement.
To the Government of Zimbabwe
- Refer to the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission to investigate the circumstances leading to the floods at the Tokwe-Mukorsi dam. If it is found that they could have been prevented with reasonable care, hold those responsible to account by charging them to a court and trying them in a fair manner;
- Until the flood victims have sustainable sources of livelihoods, ensure the distribution of regular food assistance and other forms of support to the flood victims, with particular focus on ensuring access to marginalized or vulnerable groups, including women, children and persons with disabilities. This includes providing access to sufficient clean, safe, and potable water, access to sanitation and other basic services at the area of resettlement on Nuanetsi Ranch;
- Provide effective remedies to the flood victims, including access to justice and appropriate forms of compensation in accordance with domestic laws and relevant regional and international instruments, including the African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa, which Zimbabwe ratified;
- Ensure that going forward there is adequate compensation, full participation, and consultation in arriving at a durable solution for the flood victims, taking steps to ensure participation of women and marginalized or vulnerable groups in the community;
- Facilitate the displaced in finding a durable resettlement solution and ensure they are provided with documentation for secure land tenure and sufficient resources, including access to water for domestic use and livelihoods, to constitute adequate standards of living, in safety and with dignity;
- Waive school fees for all children affected by the Tokwe-Mukorsi flood until their parents and guardians have regained a sustainable livelihood, and ensure all children have access to at least full primary education; and
- Put in place mechanisms to ensure transparency and accountability for all humanitarian aid so that it reaches the intended beneficiaries. Humanitarian assistance should not be used to coerce people to accept government resettlement plans or to reward those viewed as compliant.
To the African Union (AU)
- Press Zimbabwe to ensure full protection of the rights of the displaced in accordance with its legal obligations under the African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa; and
- Call on the government of Zimbabwe to take urgent measures to provide assistance and protection to Tokwe-Mukorsi flood victims, and to allow unimpeded international assistance.
To United Nations Agencies, the European Union (EU), and International Donors
- Conduct direct monitoring of the situation of Tokwe-Mukorsi flood victims to ensure that humanitarian assistance is not diverted or used to coerce the displaced to accept inadequate resettlement options;
- Urge the Government of Zimbabwe to ensure that all humanitarian assistance is monitored to ensure it reaches intended beneficiaries;
- Install mechanisms to ensure transparency and accountability for all humanitarian aid so that it reaches the intended beneficiaries; and
- Engage in active and assertive advocacy with the authorities, including enlisting the support of senior and appropriate EU and UN officials, for a durable solution for the displaced and protection of the rights of the flood victims.
This report is based on research conducted by a Human Rights Watch researcher and a local consultant at Chingwizi camp, Nuanetsi Ranch, in Zimbabwe’s Masvingo province, and in Harare between March and August 2014. Human Rights Watch interviewed over 60 flood victims, a government minister, legislators, representatives of United Nations agencies and other donors supporting the flood victims, dam construction workers, an engineer, lawyers representing flood victims, rights activists, and national journalists.
Human Rights Watch chose to conduct this research because of numerous reports in the local media highlighting human rights problems after the floods and the government’s failure to adequately protect the rights of the flood victims. The report focuses on Chingwizi camp for various reasons, including lack of compensation, access to official financial assistance, and other human rights problems that only affected the flood victims relocated to Chingwizi camp.
Between August and October 2014, Human Rights Watch conducted additional interviews by telephone, in addition to reviewing various relevant documents, including Zimbabwe’s new constitution and the African Union Convention on the Protection on Internally Displaced Persons, domestic laws, legal documents and regulations, reports by local human rights organizations, and newspaper articles.
In August 2014, Human Rights Watch wrote to the government of Zimbabwe, nongovernmental organizations that provide aid to the flood victims, and two companies claiming ownership of Nuanetsi ranch, summarizing our findings and requesting an official response. The NGOs are the International Organization for Migration (IOM), Shelter Box, Oxfam International, Zimbabwe Red Cross Society; the two companies are the Nuanetsi Ranch Private Limited and Zimbabwe Bio Energy Company (ZBE). Some of the NGOs and both companies responded to our letter. The United Nations resident coordinator in Zimbabwe responded (on behalf of the UN agencies) providing aid to the flood victims as well as IOM and Shelter Box. The UN agencies are the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP). The responses of the UN agencies and the two companies are included as appendices to this report. Oxfam International and Zimbabwe Red Cross Society are yet to respond at time of writing.
Human Rights Watch met with Masvingo Provincial Affairs Minister Kudakwashe Bhasikiti, at his request, on August 14, 2014, in Masvingo. The minister made reference to a number of documents during the meeting, but did not, however, give Human Rights Watch any copies of relevant documents, plans, or records we requested at the meeting.
For security reasons, some details about individuals and locations of interviews have been changed or withheld when such information could place a person at risk. All interviews were conducted in English and Shona. All interviewees freely gave their consent to be interviewed and were informed that they could end or withdraw from the interview at any point. No inducement was offered to, or solicited by, the interviewees.
Minister Bhasikiti in May 2014 banned civil society and media from accessing the camp, thus limiting the ability of Human Rights Watch to access to some of the flood victims. Some of the victims were unable to freely talk about their conditions because of fear of government reprisals, especially after Bhasikiti announced the ban. Interviews were conducted in Chingwizi camp, Chingwizi resettlement area, Chiredzi, Masvingo and Harare. Local partners assisted in identifying interviewees.
Dam Construction, Changing Resettlement Plans
Tokwe-Mukorsi is slated to be the largest inland dam in Zimbabwe. Located at the confluence of the Tokwe and Mukorsi rivers in Masvingo province, it aims to provide irrigation water and hydro-electricity to the Lowveld sugar cane estates and surrounding communal farmers.
An Italian contracting company, Salini Impregilo JVC, began construction of Tokwe-Mukorsi dam in 1998 but stopped several times due to funding challenges. When construction resumed in April 2011, it was estimated that the project would be completed within 31 months at a cost of US$133.8 million. It is currently slated to be finished at the end of 2015 at the cost of $298.7 million.
At the outset of construction, the government assessed that 6,393 families living around Tokwe-Mukorsi would need to be relocated. It designated three relocation sites, with the following amenities:
- Chisase in Masvingo district, 50 kilometers from the dam (126 families; one school, one clinic, 42 boreholes);
- Masangula in Mwenezi district, 150 kilometers from the dam (485 families; three schools, two clinics; 42 boreholes); and
- Chingwizi in Mwenezi district, 150 kilometers from the dam (5782 families; five schools; two clinics; 63 boreholes).
In 2011, the government promised that each displaced family would receive a 17-hectare plot of land and each household would be compensated based solely on property evaluation that was done before the floods. Amounts due to families based solely on property evaluation, Human Rights Watch learned, ranged from as little as $217 to as much as $10,000.
However, between 2012 and 2013, when the families were eventually relocated to Chisase, Masangula, and parts of Chingwizi, they only received four-hectare plots per family for building dwellings and planting crops under dry-land farming. Several people told Human Rights Watch that the authorities promised and in some cases gave an additional one-hectare plot for each family for irrigation, making a total of five hectares. By January 2014, partly due to resistance from families who wanted to be compensated before relocation, the government had relocated just 712 out of 6,393 families. The families who voluntarily resettled in Chisase and Masangula prior to the floods are able to grow crops to feed their families, and were not affected by government’s new plans that targeted flood victims at Chingwizi camp. Lack of compensation, access to aid and other human rights problems only affected the flood victims at Chingwizi camp.
After the flood, the government further scaled down the size of the plots on offer. In March 2014 it announced the new Chingwizi Resettlement Master Plan, which shrunk plot size to one hectare: 0.5 hectares for building a home and 0.5 hectares for domestic food production under irrigation. The new plan did not affect the Masangula and Chisase resettlement sites. About 4,900 hectares are slated for exclusive commercial sugar cane production under irrigation developed as a cluster model with the same families who received one-hectare plots for building dwellings being required to participate in the commercial scheme.
Minister Bhasikiti explained that because sugar cane farming will be a commercial irrigation venture, and because the Tokwe-Mukorsi flood victims are too poor to set up such a project on their own, the government and private investors would develop the project, grow the sugar cane for the families, and recoup expenses and costs after harvesting and selling the cane. They would then hand the remaining profit to resettled families participating in the project. To make the project commercially viable, he said, the government had to grow one crop.
Displaced families—the majority of which had not yet been financially compensated following property evaluations by the government prior to the floods—were told the government would only financially compensate them based on property evaluations “as soon as resources are available,” at an undetermined time. According to Minister Bhasikiti, the government was prepared to sign a document acknowledging the promised compensation, but families demanded payment up front. In an address to Parliament on September 11, 2014, Finance and Economic Development Minister Patrick Chinamasa announced that government required $12 million to compensate 3,324 displaced families and had so far managed to compensate 1,423 families at the cost of $5,8 million, leaving a balance of $7 million for 1,901 families.
The Flooding and Forced Evictions
Authorities, including Masvingo Provincial Affairs Minister Bhasikiti, maintain the floods were a natural disaster resulting from climate change which resulted in record rainfalls in the country. Bhasikiti said the amount of rainfall that Masvingo province received between December 2013 and February 2014 surpassed a 40-year record resulting in floods.
Many people who spoke to Human Rights Watch, including flood victims, dam project workers and an engineer familiar with the construction of Tokwe-Mukorsi dam, contend that the floods could have been prevented through letting out water downstream of the dam through water regulation tunnels in the dam wall. According to the engineer, as Tokwe-Mukorsi dam is still under construction, a decision to keep water in the dam should have been taken only after people living in the dam basin had been safely relocated. Satellite images of the floods taken between December 2013 and May 2014, and analyzed by Human Rights Watch, revealed the sudden flooding of the reservoir and then the gradual, controlled reduction in water levels between April and May 2014. Since the water levels were stable at least until March 30, this strongly suggests that there were no efforts to reduce water levels at all or minimize flooding at least until early April 2014.
A man, one of those evicted from Tokwe-Mukorsi told Human Rights Watch:
When armed soldiers came to evict us at the end of January 2014, we pleaded with them to open the tunnels in the dam wall and allow water to flow downstream of the dam but they refused. The leader of the soldiers who addressed us said, “President Mugabe directed that this dam should be constructed so that it contains water in it, and you ask us to let the water out? No. It is time for you to leave now. You will receive your compensation later, when [the] government gets the money.”
Some of those evicted said they should not have been moved because they were far from the flood areas. Three men at Chingwizi camp, who were from an area unaffected by the floods such as Museva, Chewuka and Rarangwe villages, told Human Rights Watch:
Armed soldiers ordered us to pack our belongings and leave the place immediately, telling us that the area within a 50-kilometer radius around the dam will be turned into a game park—hence the eviction order. They said the government did not have money for compensation but that was not going to stop the evictions.
Disputed Resettlement Land Ownership
Disputes over ownership, land use, and control of the areas slated as relocation sites have introduced another layer of complication to the issues surrounding the relocation of over 3,000 families. Two of the designated relocation sites for permanent resettlement, Masangula and Chingwizi in Mwenezi district, are located on Nuanetsi Ranch, some 150 kilometers from Tokwe-Mukorsi dam.
Ownership of the ranch is disputed, with Minister Bhasikiti claiming the land was purchased in 1989 by DTZ, which he said is a government-owned not-for-profit company. President Robert Mugabe is the DTZ patron. The DTZ deed of trust says the presidency controlling the trust refers to ‘the president of a political party known as ZANU-PF in consultation with the two vice presidents of such party,’ strongly suggesting it is not a government company, but a company under the control of the ZANU-PF presidency led by Mugabe.
Bhasikiti’s claim that the ranch is government-owned is disputed by Charles Madonko who told Human Rights Watch that the ranch is owned by two companies, Nuanetsi Ranch Private Limited, and Zimbabwe Bio Energy Limited (ZBE). ZBE is a joint venture company between Nuanetsi Ranch and private investors, to developa project at the ranch consisting of different components, including safari, cattle, leather, crocodiles, sugar cane, and ethanol production. Madonko, a director of the two companies, said the people being resettled on the ranch are merely tenants, and that Nuanetsi Ranch Private Limited holds the title to the land. Chingwizi camp committee leaders (including chiefs and village heads representing the flood victims) said Madonko told them in a meeting on June 4, 2014, that flood victims could not be permanently resettled on Nuanetsi Ranch without the explicit approval of Nuanetsi Ranch Private Limited and ZBE, the owners of the farm.
Human Rights Watch is not in a position to determine the ownership claims to Nuanetsi Ranch. The dispute, however, does raise questions about whether the displaced at Nuanetsi ranch will enjoy secure land tenure rights or whether they remain in danger of further displacement should claims of land ownership by private companies succeed. The government of Zimbabwe should urgently clarify and resolve the question of the ownership of Nuanetsi Ranch before offering resettlement of the displaced on it.
In a letter to Human Rights Watch, Madonko said that Nuanetsi Ranch Limited and ZBE had in 2008 set aside 56,000 hectares in the northeast of the ranch to accommodate people displaced by the dam. He said that in July 2012 Local Government and National Housing Minister Chombo had written to ZBE requesting an additional 68,000 hectares of land for relocated families, and that Nuanetsi Ranch and ZBE subsequently increased the settlement area to 111, 201 hectares with the proviso that squatters illegally occupying land. Those who invaded parts of the ranch in the 2000’s during the height of farm invasions across the country should make way for those displaced from Tokwe-Mukorsi.
Madonko further said that when providing the land, ZBE had made clear that in order to make its sugar cane and ethanol project viable, the joint venture reserved the right to retain the Chingwizi section of land due to its proximity to the Runde river, although it did not oppose the area being used to “temporarily accommodate” those displaced. Despite this, he said, Minister Bhasikiti “chose to ignore such instruction” and moved the displaced onto the Chingwizi section “without our consent.”
Madonko said although ZBE intends to grow sufficient sugar cane itself, in light of the hardships faced by Tokwe-Mukorsi flood victims, it intended to offer an out-grower scheme where willing participants would be trained to grow sugar cane that they could choose to sell to ZBE or other mills.
From the outset, the dam project and the relocation of those in the waters’ path was fraught with human rights problems. Local residents were not adequately consulted on their needs or on the effect that the dam would have on their lives. The actual displacement took place during an emergency that some believe could have been avoided through efforts to prevent or minimize the floods. The result was that those displaced lost much moveable property for which they have not been compensated. Rather than being compensated fairly for the land they lost and allowed freedom of movement, families were impoverished and offered a stark choice: accept comparably tiny plots and become farmworkers on a sugar cane plantation or lose even the inadequate aid on offer from the government. And even should they take the government’s deal, it is unclear whether they could hope to derive a sustainable living, or even steady tenure over this farmland, because of the dispute over the title ownership of the land.
This situation contravenes every standard for dealing with internal displacement that has been put forward in the last 15 years. The UN, the African Union, the World Bank, the European Union, and many other donors and humanitarian organizations have stressed that basic human rights must be respected at every stage of displacement and resettlement. Instead, those rights have been consistently violated, and the over 3,000 families displaced as a result of the dam’s flooding are now living in precarious conditions where they struggle to meet their basic need—on plots of land from which they may conceivably be expelled.
Inadequate Food, Shelter, Sanitation
Since the closure of Chingwizi camp and the resettlement of all flood victims onto one-hectare plots at Nuanetsi Ranch, the 3,000 families have not been getting adequate food, shelter, and other basic aid. The families last received food aid from the World Food Programme (WFP) at the end of September 2014. Four resettled women told Human Rights Watch that they continue to live in tents and the government has directed all resettled people not to build any permanent structures on the plots they were allocated on the ranch. Minister Bhasikiti told Human Rights Watch that government and donors had constructed 36 boreholes at Bongo and Nyoni sections to ensure that no family walks more than one kilometer to fetch water. However, several people told Human Rights Watch that most of the boreholes were dry, and that the few that were not dry produced saline water that is unsuitable for drinking. As a result, people must walk up to 20 kilometers in search of potable water. Four of the resettled persons told Human Rights Watch that the flood victims were exposed to malaria, but had no access to adequate supplies of anti-malarial drugs.
Resettled families said they fear further displacement and continue to rely on humanitarian assistance as their crops were destroyed by the floods, but fear that aid agencies may discontinue support believing that a long-term solution has been found through “permanent resettlement.”
From June to September 2014, the WFP provided food aid to the flood victims each month, allocating each person 10 kilograms of maize-meal, 2 kilograms of beans or peas and 0.75 liters of vegetable oil. WFP Zimbabwe Spokesperson Tomson Phiri told Human Rights Watch that WFP aid to Tokwe-Mukorsi flood victims ended in September 2014 because the $773,000 WFP received from the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) was enough to provide aid only for four months. Added Phiri:
WFP assistance to the flood victims was an emergency response for four months only. The termination of our assistance might mean an unfortunate reduction in support but it is our hope that government and other actors might be able to assist the flood victims going forward as there is a clear need to support the resettled people who lost their crops during the floods.
On September 24, 2014, Minister Bhasikiti told civil society leaders and the journalists in Masvingo that from October 2014 the central government would take over the provision of aid to the flood victims and is appealing for $3 million from donors to buy enough food to last eight months.
According to Chingwizi camp committee leaders and several flood victims, in the lead up to the closure of Chingwizi camp in August 2014, the government conditioned survival aid on flood victims’ acceptance of resettlement plans.
The degree of peoples’ reliance on aid is accentuated by the fact many flood victims lost or were forced to leave behind livestock when they were moved, and by the fact that land at Chingwizi—they say—is not amenable to farming.
A school for the displaced, called Mulale, which was relocated from Chingwizi to Nyoni section, charges $55 per term school fees. The sum is beyond the reach of most parents or guardians affected by the floods, who are solely dependent on aid. As a result, hundreds of children are at risk of being unable to continue their education as there are no other schools for the displaced.
Lack of Compensation, Right to Choose Residence
As of February 2014, the government had compensated just 896 out of 6,393 families since work began on the dam 16 years earlier, according to local government Minister Ignatious Chombo. People should be able to be compensated and choose their residence and the government denied these rights. The circumstances under which people came to be suddenly displaced are suspicious, and they lost property as a result of the emergency and the great distance to which they were removed. There was little consultation even prior to the flood about whether it was beneficial to undertake the development and uproot people this distance.
As flood victims were being moved to Chingwizi camp in early February 2014, Masvingo Provincial Administrator Felix Chikovo, who chairs the Tokwe-Mukorsi relocation committee, reiterated that all families would be compensated prior to being resettled on five hectares of land. Later, at the end of February, Vice President Joyce Mujuru reportedly told flood victims at Chingwizi camp they would not leave the camp without compensation and promised to arrange for compensation to be paid out within a week.
However, several people present at a camp meeting that Minister Bhasikiti addressed on March 19, 2014, said Bhasikiti told them that resettlement plans had changed: under the new Chingwizi Resettlement Master Plan, each family would now be resettled on one-hectare plots and take part in commercial sugar cane farming. According to those present, Bhasikiti added that the government would take back land from all those already resettled on four-hectare plots in Chingwizi, who would now be given one-hectare plots instead. Compensation, he said, would be paid when money became available, at an unspecified time.
Anyone who resisted relocation to the one-hectare plots on Nuanetsi Ranch some 20 kilometers away from Chingwizi camp, Bhasikiti warned, would be moved with force.
Seven Chingwizi camp committee leaders said that when some flood victims refused to accept the relocation proposal and demanded compensation and relocation to five-hectare plots per family—self-owned sites where they could grow crops of their choice to feed their families—Minister Bhasikiti branded them rebels and enemies of the state.
A former soldier and flood victim told Human Rights Watch:
We are now homeless, landless, and destitute…. I served in the Zimbabwe National Army as a presidential guard for 21 years, and now this is the treatment I get in my own country?... I see no reason to live. I lost everything.
One village head, T.C., said:
Instead of creating a temporary camp a reasonable distance from the dam, we were driven some 150 kilometers away to Nuanetsi Ranch in Mwenezi district, where we are now being forced to be sugar cane farmers. We have no previous experience in sugar cane farming; neither do we have an interest in it. The government should simply pay us adequate compensation and provide us land, the five hectares per family it promised, and allow us to farm crops of our choice for us to feed our families and send our children to school.
An elderly man, B.M., told Human Rights Watch:
We have not been paid compensation to enable us build new homes if government honors its promise to relocate us on five-hectare plots per family. Several of my cattle remained in Tokwe-Mukorsi. I am now unable to travel the more than 150 kilometers back to go and look for them.
Lack of Durable Resettlement Conditions
In August 2014 the police forcibly moved many people who refused to resettle voluntarily because, they say, the one-hectare plots per family offered do not provide enough land for sustenance, adding that government’s plan to compensate them only after other costs are paid does not work for them because the irrigation scheme is estimated to take seven years to set up, during which time they would be unable to sustain themselves. They also complained that the planned irrigation system would be unsuitable for anything other than sugar cane farming; and settlement might be insecure because it is unclear whether they would have a long-term right to the land.
Minister Bhasikiti, however, told Human Rights Watch that those resettled on Nuanetsi Ranch would enjoy the same land tenure rights (99-year lease agreements) as other resettled farmers on the A1 model across Zimbabwe. The government introduced A1 model resettlements in 2000 under which title and ownership of land belongs to the state with inhabitants retaining use rights over the land for 99 years under lease agreements.
Chingwizi camp leaders present at the meeting on June 4, 2014, said Charles Madonko told flood victims that only those willing to be part of the commercial sugar cane farming irrigation scheme—to be established by his companies—could stay on Nuanetsi Ranch.
Flood victims do not want, and say they never agreed, to venture into commercial sugar cane farming. Minister Bhasikiti told Human Rights Watch that the government would initially bring in investors to develop a state of the art irrigation scheme for resettled families—an investment that both parties would then recoup before allocating remaining profits to the families. To be commercially viable, he said, each family would have to grow the same crop. Bhasikiti said it would take about seven years for the irrigation scheme to be established—during which time, flood victims say, they will have no access to a source of livelihood.
Government Misuse of Humanitarian Aid
Several flood victims said they believed authorities at Chingwizi camp misused humanitarian aid by coercing them to accept the government’s resettlement plan.
Before the government forcibly shut down the camp in mid-August 2014, United Nations agencies, international donors, and local groups provided humanitarian aid including shelter, food, clothing, potable water, health, and sanitary facilities. The Minister Bhasikiti issued a directive that all donations should be presented to his office for onward distribution to beneficiaries; donors were prohibited from directly giving out their donations. He said the directive would enable government to exercise greater control over the distribution of the aid.
Some aid was apparently diverted to the neighboring towns of Triangle and Chiredzi where it was sold on the open markets for profit. In one instance, some Shelter Box tents donated through the International Organization for Migration (IOM) wrongly allocated to government officials and their relatives were only recovered after IOM intervention. A mother of five children, whose youngest child was born at the camp in March 2014, said:
The police here are corrupt, distributing food unfairly, and often diverting donated food…. International donor agencies and other well-wishers are not allowed to distribute food, clothes, blankets, or other donated items directly to us. They are required to hand over all donations to the office of the provincial government of Masvingo. From there, much of the donations simply vanish.
Human Rights Watch researchers who visited Chiredzi and Triangle and, based on the NGO labels on bags of food, confirmed that goods meant for the displaced at Chingwizi were being sold in the two towns.
When Human Rights Watch asked Minister Bhasikiti about the allegations of theft of donations, he said his officials had conducted three audits of all donations and everything was accounted for. However, when Chingwizi camp leaders requested to nominate representatives from among themselves to oversee food distribution and ensure transparency and accountability, Minister Bhasikiti refused.
Are they [flood victims] government officials to want to monitor the distribution of donations? If they are not government officials then the distribution of donations and accountability thereof is none of their business. My officials do the distributions and the audits and they tell me that with three audits done so far everything is fine.
The minister added that victims may have sold their donations.
A man at Chingwizi camp told Human Rights Watch:
They [government authorities] are now using food aid as a weapon to force me to occupy a one-hectare plot. They are not giving us food. If we complain they tell us to occupy the one-hectare plots in order to get food. The Assistant District Administrator … is the one telling us to move to one-hectare plots in order to get food.
Responding on behalf of government employees working at Chingwizi camp, Minister Bhasikiti told Human Rights Watch that government saw that the only way to ensure resettlement was to withdraw aid as the flood victims had become “too comfortable” at Chingwizi camp and no longer wanted to be resettled.
The UN agencies said, despite limited resources, their response to the flood victims has been guided by humanitarian principles premised on accountability to beneficiaries by providing humanitarian response in a humane, impartial, neutral, and independent manner.
Human Rights Watch raised with Minister Bhasikiti the possibility of the government investigating allegations that donations were being diverted and sold on the market. He flatly rejected the allegations, saying they were false and required no investigation.
Coercion, Use of Force, Harassment, and Arrests
Flood victims said the government has subjected them to harassment, threats, physical violence, and used “cruel methods” to force them out of Chingwizi camp and onto one-hectare plots in Bongo and Nyoni sections of Nuanetsi Ranch.
According to a petition that flood victims submitted to the government on July 16, 2014, the provincial administrator’s office had engaged in several practices in order to achieve this end, including: denying them food; limiting access to water; barring and diverting donations intended for their assistance; blocking toilets; and closing the satellite school and clinic near the camp. The petition called on government to address the plight of the displaced by, among other things, compensating families and allocating them at least five-hectares for resettlement.
Although the Minister of Local Government Ignatious Chombo undertook to follow up on issues raised in the petition, Masvingo provincial administration authorities shuttered the only clinic at Chingwizi camp on August 1, 2014. When camp residents protested, according to four eyewitnesses, about 30 police officers stationed at the camp attempted to quell the protests and then fled when violence broke out. Two police vehicles were burned.
On August 3, 2014, over 200 anti-riot police indiscriminately beat and arrested close to 300 people, mostly men, according to four eyewitnesses who were interviewed separately by Human Rights Watch. Most of those arrested were later released, except for 29 who were charged with public violence. On August 4, government officials relocated the camp clinic equipment and staff to Bongo and Nyoni sections. Lawyers representing those arrested alleged that police assaulted many of those whom they arrested—including chairperson of the Chingwizi camp committee, Mike Mudyanembwa. The government appears to have over-reacted to the protests and cracked down on some potentially innocent people.
On August 8, a magistrate granted bail to 25, but kept the remaining four, including Mudyanembwa, in custody pending trial. While 25 were later freed by the court, the remaining four were convicted and sentenced to five years in prison on January 27, 2015.
NGOs working at the camp estimated on August 7, 2014, that possibly as many as half of the people living in the camp, most of them men, fled the camp and were in hiding, without access to food or aid. A 65-year-old man hiding in the mountains told Human Rights Watch that he had been separated from his wife and children as they fled police violence. He did not know where they were and said he was afraid to return to the camp.
Instead of restoring health facilities at the camp and allowing for meaningful consultations regarding resettlement, government officials quickly moved to shut down the camp without plans to protect the displaced.
After the arrests and flight of the men, according to four women at the camp during the arrests, police forced all the women, including the sick and disabled, to sit in the sun without access to toilets for two consecutive days from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. as punishment for being “rebellious” against government plans and for allegedly allowing some camp residents to burn the two police vehicles.
The women were then ordered to put all their tents and belongings onto government trucks and move to the allocated one-hectare plots in Bongo and Nyoni sections. Camp leaders told Human Rights Watch that much household property was lost during the forced removal. According to Minister Bhasikiti, government removed the last of the camp residents on August 14, 2014, when Chingwizi camp ceased to exist.
Leaders of the Chingwizi community who are in hiding said they were living in fear after families members told them that police wanted to arrest them all on charges of leading a rebellion against government resettlement plans. In an interview with Human Rights Watch, Minister Bhasikiti blamed the Chingwizi camp committee leaders for frustrating government resettlement plans, which he said, “the majority” of flood victims wanted.
On August 8, 2014, Human Rights Watch sent detailed questions to several aid agencies giving support to Tokwe-Mukorsi flood victims including Oxfam International, International Organization for Migration, Shelter Box, and the Zimbabwe Red Cross Society.
IOM and Shelter Box referred Human Rights Watch’s questions to the United Nations Resident Coordinator. Oxfam International and Zimbabwe Red Cross had not responded at time of writing.
On August 25, 2014, the UN agencies issued a general response to questions that Human Rights Watch submitted, without addressing specific issues raised.
The UN said its agencies, in collaboration with partners, had supported government efforts to provide humanitarian assistance to the affected population when it established Chingwizi temporary camp for Tokwe-Mukorsi flood victims.The UN said its support included providing basic health care from temporary clinics, food rations, temporary shelter materials, and hygiene kits; water supply through trucking and boreholes; emergency sanitation facilities; and psycho-social services. The UN added that, despite limited resources, its response was guided by humanitarian principles premised on accountability to beneficiaries by providing humanitarian response in a humane, impartial, neutral, and independent manner.
However, it neither explained how the humanitarian assistance was distributed, nor how it ensured that government officials distributing the aid themselves abided by humanitarian principles of accountability. It did not state whether aid agencies had free access to the flood victims or whether government restricted such access.
While the UN noted that affected households remained in Chingwizi camp until early August, when the government relocated all of them to a nearby permanent settlement at Nuanetsi Ranch, it failed to indicate how government had carried out the relocation and made no reference to the government’s alleged use of force.
The UN noted that the delay for the resettlement was caused by disputes between affected families and the government on compensation and the relocation package, but does not say how the dispute was resolved to enable resettlement in August 2014. The UN said it has continuously engaged relevant government authorities and partners “not only in advocating for the affected families to receive humanitarian assistance but also on the need to find long-term solutions.”
Zimbabwe’s new constitution, which entered into force on August 22, 2013, enshrines rights of the displaced which government is obligated to ensure, fulfill, and protect, including the rights to health, shelter, food, and water.
The Framework for the Resettlement of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Zimbabwe, which was adopted in January 2011 by international aid agencies working in Zimbabwe, is based on the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement and the African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa. Although not legally binding, it draws on relevant legal standards to guide resettlement processes in Zimbabwe. The Resettlement Framework for Zimbabwe identifies the following among the most relevant minimum pre-conditions for undertaking resettlement in Zimbabwe:
- The voluntariness of the decision of IDPs to resettle. Verification should be undertaken to ascertain the willingness of the IDPs and host community members to accept and participate in the solution that is being offered and ensure that they have full knowledge of both the place to which they are being resettled/integrated and the resources and documentation that will be available to them.
- Support will be provided to resettle IDPs on land only where there is the full acquiescence of all parties, including the government and others actively claiming an interest in the land.
- Prior to resettlement, IDPs are provided with the minimum land tenure and civil status documentation and resource requirements reflecting that the situation or proposed solution is indeed durable. This principle refers both to the need to provide IDPs with a legal basis for where they are to be resettled, such that they will not remain at risk of further displacement and secondly that they are provided with sufficient material resources to constitute an adequate standards of living, in safety and with dignity. This includes, and is particularly focused on, opportunities to engage in sustainable livelihood activities.
In the case of the arbitrary resettlement of Tokwe-Mukorsi flood victims, the government has failed to satisfy all the four conditions above, nor has it assured health, shelter, food, and water to the displaced, in breach of its constitutional obligations.
Article 9(2)(b) of the African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa, which Zimbabwe ratified, requires that states parties ensure that all displaced people have safe access to “food, water, shelter, medical care and other health services, sanitation, education, and any other necessary social services.”
The United Nations Guiding Principles on Internal
Displacement provide an authoritative restatement of existing international law
as it relates to the protection of internally displaced persons, including
those affected by human-made disasters. The
Guiding Principles address all phases of displacement: providing protection
against arbitrary displacement; ensuring protection and assistance during
displacement; and the right to liberty of movement, including the right to move
freely in and out of camps or other settlements. It stipulates that displaced
children shall have the right to education.
Guiding principle 25 provides that all authorities concerned shall grant and facilitate the free passage of humanitarian assistance and grant persons engaged in the provision of such assistance rapid and unimpeded access to the internally displaced. Principle 30 of the Guiding Principles provides that national and local authorities should grant international humanitarian and development actors, in the exercise of their respective mandates, rapid and unimpeded access to assist IDPs in finding a durable solution.
All humanitarian assistance shall be provided without
discrimination and should not be diverted for political reasons. The Guiding
Principles emphasize that the authorities must provide displaced people with
objective, accurate information and include them in the decision-making
processes that lead to their voluntary return or resettlement, or to remaining
in the place where they sought refuge.
Forced displacement without compensation, termed as forced evictions, is prohibited by international law. It includes forced relocations for participation in development projects. The UN Committee on Economic, Cultural, and Social Rights defined forced evictions as “the permanent or temporary removal against their will of individuals, families and/or communities from the homes and/or land which they occupy, without the provision of, and access to, appropriate forms of legal or other protection.”
The committee urged governments to ensure that, prior to any evictions, particularly those involving large groups, all feasible alternatives are explored in consultation with affected people, with a view to avoiding, or at least minimizing, the use of force. Governments should also ensure that those evicted have a right to adequate compensation for any property affected.
As set out in principle 18 of the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, the national authorities have a responsibility to provide protection and humanitarian assistance to IDPs within their jurisdiction. That responsibility includes protection from discrimination and ensuring that IDPs have safe access to:
- Essential food and potable water;
- Basic shelter and housing;
- Appropriate clothing; and
- Essential medical services and sanitation.
The United Nations Human Rights Council Framework on Durable Solutions for Internally Displaced Persons provides national authorities and humanitarian actors need to work together to implement a rights-based process to support a durable solution for the displaced. The rights-based process has the following components:
- Internally displaced persons are in a position to make an informed and voluntary decision on the durable solution they would like to pursue;
- They participate in the planning and management of the durable solution so that their needs and rights are considered in recovery and development strategies;
- They have safe, unimpeded, and timely access to all actors supporting the achievement of durable solutions including nongovernmental and international humanitarian and development actors; and,
- They have access to effective mechanisms that monitor the process and the conditions on the ground.
This report was researched and written by Dewa Mavhinga, senior researcher in the Africa Division.
The report was edited by Tiseke Kasambala, southern Africa director in the Africa division; Dinah PoKempner, general counsel, Danielle Haas, senior program editor; and Babatunde Olugboji, deputy program director.
Production assistance and formatting, was provided by Joyce Bukuru, associate in the Africa division. Thanks to Grace Choi, publications director, Kathy Mills, publications specialist, Jenny Catherall, producer in the Multimedia Department and Josh Lyons, satellite imagery analyst, for their work to produce the maps and satellite images in this report.
Human Rights Watch wishes to thank all individuals and institutions in Zimbabwe that contributed to the research of this report. Finally, we are grateful to the donors who have generously supported our work.
Annex 1: Human Rights Watch Letter to the Managing Director of Development Trust of Zimbabwe, Nuanetsi Ranch Limited, and Zimbabwe Bio-Energy Company
Annex 2: Human Rights Watch Letter to Provincial Affairs Resident Minister for Masvingo
Annex 3: Human Rights Watch Letter to International Organization for Migration Country Director for Zimbabwe
Annex 4: Nuanetsi Ranch Limited and Zimbabwe Bio-Energy Company Response to Human Rights Watch
Annex 5: United Nations Response to Human Rights Watch on Chigwizi Flood Affected Population