Accountable Democratic Action through Social Cohesion Program – Protecting the Shelter Rights of Informal Settlers in Zimbabwe

Under the USAID-funded Accountable Democratic Action (ADA) through Social Cohesion Program, the Development Innovations Group, in close collaboration with its local partner, Dialogue on Shelter Trust, is increasing local and national decision-makers’ constitutional accountability regarding the rights of the urban poor to shelter and basic services in informal settlements across Zimbabwe. Despite being protected by the Constitution and select government policies, urban informal settlers endure human rights violations related to demolitions and evictions to this day. As a result, they face significant challenges, ranging from the loss of life and property to trauma due to the destruction of their home and community.

Julia Dube lives with her husband and three children in Killarney, an informal settlement in Bulawayo, one of the five ADA target local authorities along with Harare, Epworth, Masvingo, and Kadoma. Julia is a member of the Mpumelelo community anti-eviction solidarity group set up with ADA support to enable informal settlers to more effectively work together and with local authorities to protect their rights to shelter and basic services . In June 2020, Killarney residents received a verbal threat of eviction from the City of Bulawayo after the land was sold to create a housing development project. Residents were given less than a week to leave, causing enormous distress among the informal settlers.

Killarney residents requested ADA assistance and, subsequently, received psychosocial services and support negotiating with city officials. Despite COVID-19 restrictions, the ADA Program was able to remotely provide counseling for trauma, stress management, and well-being. The ADA Program revived hope among informal settlers, like Julia, and enabled them to explore alternative solutions to eviction by fostering a productive dialogue with the City of Bulawayo. As a result, city officials agreed to a stay of eviction while residents searched for alternative land. Grateful for ADA’s support, Julie declared: “I am so happy with the counseling services we received. It renewed our minds and prepared us mentally to face the City of Bulawayo regarding threats of evictions. With the support from the ADA team, we successfully managed to negotiate for a stay of evictions while other alternatives are being explored.” With a sigh of relief, she added: “After the negotiations with the City of Bulawayo, there are no further threats of evictions received.” Julie is just one of more than 200,500 informal settlers who have benefited from the ADA Program’s support.