By Farai Matiashe

THE Centre for Conflict Management and Transformation (CCMT) has urged local authorities to give sufficient public notice and to conduct consultations with residents before evicting them to pave way for development.

CCMT’s calls follow a number of cases in the country, where local authorities have evicted residents on short notice under the guise of road projects and town expansions.

Speaking on Wednesday at the launch of a research paper titled Challenges to Relocation and Compensation of Rural Communities Displaced by Development Projects in Zimbabwe by CCMT, Roman Catholic cleric Father Fidelis Mukonori said there was need for the local authorities to properly plan before relocating people to avoid conflicts.

“How do you evict other people in a place where you want to develop? The universe is expanding, but the earth is not. Babies are born every day and few people are dying every day,” he said.

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“Local authorities need to properly plan, so that they do not violate residents’ rights because people have a right to shelter and they are not supposed to be denied such a God-given right.”

Surveys were conducted in three districts in the Midlands province, namely Shurugwi, Zvishavane and Mberengwa, where residents were relocated to pave way for a platinum mine, town expansion and growth points, respectively.

Speaking at the same event, co-author of the CCMT’s research paper, Shadreck Vengesayi, said the findings were that few people were consulted in the concerned districts.

“In Mberengwa and Zvishavane, 100% of the residents there said they were never consulted. They were just relocated. The study shows how we should map the way forward,” he said.

Vengesayi said the research paper was recommending responsible authorities to consult residents before relocating rural communities.

“Responsible authorities should give sufficient public notice and conduct public consultations and hearings. There is need to negotiate the terms and conditions of the relocation with the affected people or their chosen representatives and any relevant third party,” he said.

Vengesayi urged local authorities to properly plan and compensate relocated residents.

“I recommend the responsible authorities to replace buildings and other improvements based on the principle of equivalence or to provide material support and or financial compensation that enable equivalent replacement. Also, to provide technical and material support and or financial compensation to disruptions, disturbances or other damages reasonably incurred due to the process,” he said.

A Runde Rural District Council official, Gorden Moyo, said they were lacking resources to support the relocated residents.

“As local authorities, we lack resources. There is a lot of travelling involved. About compensation, we have tried our best, but we always fall short due to lack of resources. We know our development plans. We know which areas we want to develop. Therefore, I feel there is need for us as local authorities to plan ahead,” he said.