More than 100 people in Swaziland (eSwatini) face forced eviction from their homes with nowhere to go in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, Amnesty International reported.
In Madonsa town more than 100 people have been living under the threat of forced eviction for years, to make way for the eSwatini National Provident Fund, a national pension fund administrator. Residents are anxious and have nowhere to go after they were served with a legal notice by the Fund to vacate their homes by 5 March 2021.
In a statement Amnesty said, 'Forced evictions drive people into poverty and destroy livelihoods.' It added the Swazi Government 'utterly disregard their human rights in the pursuit of patronage and commercial interests'.
Muleya Mwananyanda, Amnesty International's Deputy Director for Southern Africa, said Swaziland had a grim history of not observing due process when evicting people, including failing to consult communities or offering alternative places of accommodation when carrying out evictions.
Mwananyanda said it was 'especially appalling' that the government was attempting to make people homeless during a pandemic.
In a 2018 report, 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 kingdom's land is Swazi Nation Land, held in 'trust' by King Mswati III who rules Swaziland as an absolute monarch. The remainder of the land is Title-Deed Land, owned by private entities or the government.
Amnesty reported, 'The residents of Madonsa maintain that they obtained the land through the traditional process of kukhonta, in which allegiance is offered to the chief who in turn admits that individual into his chiefdom and allocates them land.'
The threat of eviction began in 2012, and since then thousands of people have been evicted and are living in desperately poor conditions. Despite this, more people have continued to build homes on the Madonsa land on the basis that that they felt to be secure following the allocation of the land by the chief.
Amnesty said, 'The people of Madonsa have not been adequately consulted or offered alternative accommodation. Despite this some people have already started dismantling their homes to avoid brutal forced evictions.'
On 6 March 2021, the Masvingo Magistrates Court granted an interim interdict barring the arbitrary eviction of the villagers.
Amnesty reported, 'The Court reaffirmed that no one can just decide to evict people from their place of habitation without following the law. Villagers are devastated and continue to live in fear due to a history of intimidation on those resisting eviction.'