31 December 2013 |

Zimbabwe: Internal displacement in brief

As of December 2013


There was no information on the number of IDPs in Zimbabwe in 2013. In the absence of a comprehensive survey, the only figures available are estimates based on past needs assessments. Estimating the total number of IDPs is made more difficult by the fact that a significant number have been displaced more than once, and that many have returned to their places of origin or have settled either locally or elsewhere in the country. OCHA reported in its 2009 Consolidated Appeal document for Zimbabwe that violence associated with the 2008 elections displaced 36,000 people, though other anecdotal sources placed the number much higher. Most of those displaced have allegedly been able to return home, and few new displacements were reported in the run-up to, or during, the 2013 elections, which marked the end of the national unity government in place since 2009 and installed a new administration.

A number of government policies and actions have also caused internal displacement since 2000. Those affected include former farm workers and their families who were either evicted from their property under a fast-track land reform programme, or who were forced to leave after losing their jobs as agricultural workers. Others were displaced as a result of evictions from informal urban settlements and by a government crackdown against informal mine workers.

IDPs’ conditions varied widely during 2013, depending on the cause of their displacement and the length of time they had been displaced. Their needs ranged from emergency humanitarian assistance to interventions aimed at securing durable solutions. Poor security of tenure and a lack of access to civil registration and documentation presented major obstacles for a significant number, both to their attaining a durable solution and to their accessing essential services such as education and health care.

The government acknowledged the existence of internal displacement in the 2008 global political agreement, and in 2009 it participated with the UN in a rapid assessment exercise to determine the scope of the phenomenon. As of the end of 2013, however, its findings had not been released and plans for an updated assessment and a nationwide quantitative survey had not moved forward. The gathering and publication of this information would help the government and its partners provide IDPs with appropriate assistance and support their achievement of durable solutions.

Positive steps were taken in 2013 from a legal perspective. In May, a successful referendum led to the adoption of a new constitution that provides protection from arbitrary eviction, and in November Zimbabwe ratified the Kampala Convention. Humanitarian organisations now look forward to supporting the government in the domestication of the convention.

The sub-cluster for IDPs led by IOM coordinates internal displacement issues under the umbrella of the protection cluster led by UNHCR. A number of line ministries have participated in cluster coordination mechanisms and they have gradually allowed humanitarian workers greater access to vulnerable groups, including IDPs. Humanitarian agencies working with national and local authorities developed a framework for the voluntary resettlement of IDPs in new locations. The Framework for the Resettlement of Internally Displaced Persons in Zimbabwe is based on the IASC Framework for Durable Solutions and the Kampala Convention, and incorporates the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement. It places emphasis on ensuring that any decision to resettle is voluntary, and guarantees security of tenure and livelihood opportunities for resettled IDPs. The protection cluster formally endorsed the framework in 2011.

The government and its development and humanitarian partners continued to make use of community-based planning in 2013 to respond to the needs of IDPs and their host communities.  This has facilitated durable solutions with tenure security in some areas. Representatives of all groups within certain communities, including IDPs, were invited to collaborate in identifying durable solutions and a common development strategy in line with the government’s national planning structures. Humanitarian partners continued to highlight the importance of addressing the needs of vulnerable groups through poverty reduction and social protection programmes that tackle the causes of displacement and provide durable solutions.