STATEMENT BY THE LAWYERS FOR HUMAN RIGHTS (SWAZILAND) ON THE RIGHT TO LAND AND HOUSING IN AFRICA
Presented on the ocassion of the 61st Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Right, in Banjul, The Gambia
1 – 15 November, 2017
Honourable Madam Chairperson, Honourable Commissioners;
LHR(S) recognises that article 14 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (African Charter) guarantees the right to property. This right encompasses the right to land and by extension, the right to housing.
Madam Chairpesron, LHR(S) notes that almost fifty (50) years of independence African people are still landless in their countries of birth and the land question remains a critical issue and unresolved in many African countries; thus African people remain refugees in their own countries of origin.
LHR(S) is cognisant of the work of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in the area of economic, social and cultural rights over the years;
However, the experience of forced evictions in South Africa recently, where for instance, ABAHLALI BASEMJONDOLO MOVEMENT in Durban in the Kwa-Zulu Natal Province and other provinces have been subjected to violent forced evictions, reminiscent of apartheid South Africa;
In Swaziland, people continue to live under the threats of evictions by local traditional Chiefs who exercise power for and on behalf of His Majesty the King, as well as the forced removals of Swazis on private land so as to give way to capital projects and capital investments,
In other countries, such as Angola, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia, residents who have lived, occupied and farmed land, have been displaced and in some cases forcefully evicted without due process in resettlement, compensation or effective remedies whenever the land is required for investment and infrastructure projects. In Zimbabwe despite the much publicly celebrated land reform programme we still have forced evictions of indigenous communities and land grabs as happened recently in Mazoe.
Madam Chairperson, Honourable Commissioners, LHR(S) requests the African Commission to call upon the governments of African countries to fully respect and protect the right to land and housing of their citizens and ensure that laws, policies and regulations intended to protect their citizens are implemented.
LHR(S) further urges the African Commission to adopt a resolution specific to the protection and promotion of the right of the African people to land, land rights and housing.
Furthermore, LHR(S) urges the African Commission to call upon African States to recognise that the social value of land must come before its commercial value. Land is not for sale.