Mbabane: The Human Rights and Governance Consortium under CANGO has called for the amendment of the laws governing the land tenure system to confer security of land ownership and protect communities from unlawful evictions.
This follows the recent evictions which took place at Mangwaneni in Mbabane on August 24, 2020.
In a statement issued by the Chairperson of the Human Rights and Governance Consortium Rev Zwanini Shabalala under CANGO it states that the Congress of is concerned with demolitions which happened at Mangwaneni community under notice by the Mbabane Municipality Council.
The land question in the Kingdom of Eswatini has since been a rising concern and seems to expose some loopholes in the constitution. CANGO has called for government to deal with the land issue in terms of the Constitution, calling for;
- Amendment of the laws governing the land tenure system to confer security of land ownership and protect communities from unlawful evictions;
- Affording residents access to justice so that there are no demolitions without court orders and people are aware they have their day in court;
- Considering the wide range of impacts, and argue in favor of less harmful solutions and alternatives to the foreseen project;
- Estimating the real costs related to eviction and displacement of individuals and community that goes far beyond the mere market price of physical structures; and
- Allowing for a better quantification of claims, including in regard to compensation.
CANGO has also noted that the international human right principle that everyone has a right to be protected from forced evictions regardless of whether they own or occupy the land or house, must apply.
There is no need to render people homeless as a result of forced evictions especially when the State could be assisted to develop policies and legislations to prevent these acts from happening. We therefore call for immediate land reforms.
In what CANGO has observed, some of the aggrieved residents have raised concerns about the whole activity spearheaded by the Mbabane Municipal Council invoking provisions of the Building Act of 1968 amounts to forced eviction.
A forced eviction is the removal of people against their will from their homes or land they occupy without legal protections and other safeguards. These have direct barring to basic rights including the right to housing, water, sanitation and food, as well as their access to livelihoods on which they live on daily.
Some of the aggrieved residents stated that the notice letters issued by the municipality and received by them are not a court order and have not been time sufficient for them to remove their properties inside their houses before the demolitions. They also decry the use of armed force.
CANGO said these demolitions do not comply with the international standards of evictions in the sense that, people’s properties are being flattened with little regard for human rights as there are no alternative dwellings they will be placed under.
These demolitions go far beyond material losses. They perpetuate inequality, marginalization, stifle self-development and wealth acquisition. The situation of the aggrieved residents is made worse by the Covid-19 pandemic as they are now exposed to infections. The COVID-19 restrictions make it difficult for them to find alternative accommodation.
They also state the fact that they are not sure which of the local authorities between the Mangwaneni royal kraal and the municipality they should listen to, as they are made to run from pillar to post with no solution to their problems.
During the demolitions there was a violent clash in that armed police response in their dispensing of law and order and at least two were wounded in the process.
According to Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. In common law systems, land tenure is the legal regime in which land is owned by an individual, who is said to “hold” the land. It determines who can use land, for how long and under what conditions. Tenure may be based both on official laws and policies, and on informal customs.
The Kingdom of Eswatini is characterized by two types of land tenure: land held in customary tenure, or Swazi Nation land (SNL); and land held by freehold tenure, or title deed land (TDL). The latter is sometimes referred to as individual tenure farms (ITF). The evolution of the dual system is traced back to the early 1900s.
The two types of land tenure systems in Eswatini, the Swazi National Lands (SNL) and Title Deed Land (TDL), account for 54 and 46 per cent of land area respectively.
Tenure over SNL is not defined by legislation, the land is being controlled and held in trust by the King and allocated by tribal chiefs (Tikhulu) according to traditional arrangements. There is a structural divide between large-scale TDL and small scale SNL with its predominantly smallholder agriculture. Sixty-one per cent of SNL farm holdings are less than one hectare in size. Most farms are thus very small. The rapid population increase is, in turn, exerting pressure on land availability for cropping and grazing, forcing households to produce crops on increasingly fragile lands.
The Land Policy drafted in 1999 intends to address a number of issues, i.e. improving gender equity in land allocation and protection of property rights; the use of SNL as collateral for loans, and the introduction of an efficient, effective and comprehensive system of land administration, rangeland management issues. Unfortunately the policy was never formally endorsed and land tenure and land reform remains one of the most controversial national policy issues.