The Government of Swaziland / eSwatini has failed to help the hundreds of people who were forcibly evicted from their homes a year ago, Amnesty International reported.
‘Despite Amnesty International having raised the alarm over forced evictions that left hundreds of people homeless, the eSwatini government has not taken any steps to provide reparations, including alternative housing, to the victims of this human rights violation,’ Muleya Mwananyanda, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Southern Africa said on Thursday (29 August 2019).
Mwananyanda added, ‘Many of the communities who are facing notices of eviction have stopped planning for their future and they are devastated by the prospect of finding themselves on the streets. To wilfully ignore their suffering and distress is simply unacceptable.’
Those who have been forcibly evicted and others who remain at risk of forced evictions are mainly subsistence farmers. ‘The forced evictions not only impact their right to adequate housing but also their livelihoods, thus pushing them deeper into poverty,’ Amnesty said.
In a report in 2018, Amnesty International revealed that many Swazis were vulnerable to forced evictions because they lacked security of tenure, due to the kingdom’s ‘deeply flawed’ land governance system.
Most of the land is Swazi Nation Land, held in ‘trust’ by the absolute monarch King Mswati III. He has power to allocate it to individuals or families through his chiefs. The remainder of the land is title-deed land, owned by private entities or the government.
Amnesty International found that at least four communities, Sigombeni, Madonsa, Mbondzela and Vuvulane, were at risk of imminent eviction from their farming land and their homes.
Amnesty reported, ‘In Sigombeni, at least seven homesteads comprising 75 adults and 29 children are at risk of imminent eviction after the Central Farm Dwellers Tribunal ruled on 27 March 2018 that they should vacate portion 1 of Farm 246 in the Manzini region. The farm owner does not want people to live on the farm anymore. The affected families told Amnesty International that they would lose at least 17 graves on their land if they were finally removed.’
One woman told Amnesty, ‘We are pensioners. We don’t have money. [The government] should at least compensate us and give us money. It’s not only us affected [there are other communities affected]. We don’t want to go.’
In Madonsa, more than 200 people from approximately 58 families are facing eviction from land claimed by a parastatal authority.
In Mbondzela, approximately 100 people, are at risk of being evicted from title-deed land. The residents have appealed to the Minister of Natural Resources and Energy who has referred the matter back to the Central Farm Dwellers Tribunal for reconsideration.
In Vuvulane at least 16 families remain at risk of eviction.
In the past few years, hundreds of people have been affected by forced evictions in Swaziland. Most of the evictions were carried out in the absence of adequate notice, genuine consultation and without adequate compensation, in violation of international law, Amnesty said.
In May 2019, hundreds of people marched at Malkerns to protest the forced eviction of people who had been left homeless and destitute. The march was jointly organised by a variety of civil society organisations. The Times Sunday, reported at the time one of the evicted people said, ‘We eat from the bins as we do not have homes and cannot practice farming.’
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