Porta Farm was farmed by Mr Joseph Norton, after whom Norton was named. He, family and employees were killed there in the First Chimurenga in 1896.
More recently, it has been a dropping point for evicted squatters after 'clean up' exercises, and then a point of eviction for residents. It is an example of government attempts to forcibly evict with no plans of where to go, in violation of court orders in favour of settlers and with government use of violence to evict.

Location

Address: Along the Bulawayo Road. Latitude: -17°51'0" Longitude: 30°46'0.01"
Elevation: 1367 metres
Near: Lake Manyame, Lake Chivero, Norton.

History

Post CHOGM / 1991

In 1991, prior to the visit of Queen Elizabeth of the Commonwealth for the CHOGM, a ‘clean up’ exercise was held and squatters and vagrants (‘thousands’) from some 21 urban areas were removed to Porta Farm. Forcibly evicted by the Ministry of Local Government and Housing and Harare City Council. Porta Farm was a former, then unused, farm on the outskirts of Harare owned by the City of Harare. [1]

The then Town Clerk Mr. Kanengoni regarded Tagarira Flats in Mbare and Epworth as an eye sore to the dignitaries. [2]

On 21 June 1995 Harare City Council gave written notice to the residents that they had 48 hours to leave the area or face forcible eviction and the demolition of their homes. The land was to be used as a sewage disposal and treatment site. No alternative accommodation was offered. Assisted by Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights), the residents took the case to court and on 23 June 1995, the court granted the order, the applicants are entitled to inhabit their dwellings until they are relocated to suitable permanent homes. and Harare City Council was interdicted from demolishing or threatening to demolish and evicting or threatening to evict the Applicants from Porta Squatter Camp Area. No further action was taken, either to provide alternative accommodation to the residents of Porta Farm or to evict them. And the settlement grew.

On 24 July 2004, Ignatius Chombo (Minister of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing), along with police officers, soldiers, and government officials, went to Porta Farm and told them they were to leave Porta Farm by 15 August 2004. They were not told where to go.

An official subsequently informed them they were to be moved to Caledonia Farm. This place was both occupied by war veterans who had established housing cooperatives, and lacked any sources of clean water, schools, sanitary facilities or even buildings. The 15 August deadline passed with no evictions.

On 2 August 2004 Chombo, 3 soldiers, 4 policeman, District Administrator Muchaninga, Resident Minister Mangwende and Member of Parliament Sabina Mugabe are said to have held a meeting with Porta Farm residents at Mufelandaonye offices at Porta Farm. At the meeting the residents were allegedly given 2 weeks notice to vacate the Farm. No questions or comments were allowed. It was a directive. The Minister allegedly said they would move the people to 11 farms designated for that purpose.

[2]

The army was assigned to move people to Caledonia before the 15th. The army official is said to have reiterated that he did not see any sense in removing people from their shelter to a place with no shelter. Representatives from Ministry of Health raised their concerns on the supply of safe water to drink and sanitation. Its said the response they got from Ministry of Local Government was that they could sink boreholes and erect Blair toilets. This was said to be a non-starter considering the type of soil. The experts allegedly said the water in the Blair toilets would mix with borehole water causing serious health problems. It was also noted that Caledonia is not under City of Harare, but instead it was (then) under Ruwa Rural Council. On 18 August, another meeting was held at Tong Ville Office, Caledonia farm. From the meeting it was proposed that the 25 children who are in the orphanage at Porta Farm could be housed in the farmhouse.

At Caledonia Farm, while checking with the war vets whether they had started pegging the land, they were allegedly very furious. They cited that Caledonia Farm was only for people in Mabvuku and Tafara. The war vets are said to have threatened the Porta Farm people with death if they dared to move to Caledonia Farm and they threatened that they can go and bulldoze their way into Minister Chombo’s office. The War vets blamed the Government for the whole commotion.

On 27 August 2004, police, with war veterans and Zanu PF youth arrived and said they had to immediately move. Many people refused. Some families were taken by police to farms around Harare. When some returned to Porta Farm, they complained that they were forced to work for war veterans at the Cooperatives. Porta Farm residents went again to the courts and (with ZLHR) on 31 August 2004 and were given another court order prohibiting the Minister of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing or anyone acting on his behalf from evicting people from Porta Farm unless and until the government offered them suitable alternative accommodation.

However on 2 September 2004, riot police and members of the youth militia returned and attempted to forcibly evict the residents. When the community tried to prevent the police from demolishing homes, running battles broke out, and several residents and at least one police officer were injured. Police began firing tear gas, and in subsequent weeks of unrest over 11 people died, including five children under the age of one.

On 20 September 2004 Harare City Council applied to evict the Porta Farm residents. The court dismissed the application referring to the still valid 1995 order. In November 2004 the Minster of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing filed a supplementary affidavit in the High Court. The Minister alleged he had complied with the High Court orders and provided a schedule of the farms and housing cooperatives where Porta Farm residents would be relocated. In April 2006 members of the Porta Farm community, in the company of lawyer Alec Muchadehama, visited the farms and cooperatives and were unable to find any such plots (stands). Moreover, housing cooperatives on many of the farms on which the Minister claimed the Porta community would be resettled were – less than two months later - targeted during Operation Murambatsvina and those already living there were evicted. [3]

Post Operation Murambatsvina / 2005

In May 2005, Operation Murambatsvina began. A month later, on 27 June 2005, police went to Porta Farm and handed out leaflets, requesting people to leave. The next day a convoy of vehicles and armed police arrived and destruction of buildings began. That night in winter people had to sleep outside. People were removed without their possessions and several deaths occurred, including some children. All this was observed by the UN appointed Special Envoy’s mission, there to report on Operation Murambatsvina.

Again, a court order was obtained. An interim one from Norton Magistrates Court, but this, when presented along with the two existing High Court orders to the police, were responded to with claims they could not read and that they were acting on “powers from above” and would not stop their actions.

On 30 June 2005 ZLHR lawyers filed an urgent application for contempt of court in the High Court citing the Minister of Local Government, Public Works and Urban Development, the Minister of Home Affairs, the Commissioner of Police and the Chairperson of the Harare City Council. However the application was dismissed, with no reasons given.

ZLHR filed a complaint with the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in August 2005

Between 23 and 25 July police and army surrounded Porta Farm. Bulldozers and other heavy earth moving equipment literally began to plough the area. Remaining community residents were put on trucks and taken to Hopley Farm, (on the Harare outskirts)) nd left without any shelter. At Hopley Farm they found some former Porta Farm residents who had been taken there when Caledonia Farm Transit Camp was closed down. Caledonia Farm Transit Camp was an official IDP camp, and had some facilities, but Hopley Farm was simply bare land with nothing. The government established a checkpoint at Hopley Farm and restricted access to the people living there only to government officials.

At end of July 2005 both ZLHR and Amnesty International researchers received urgent messages from Porta Farm community members who had been forcibly displaced to Hopley Farm. The messages suggested that conditions at Hopley Farm were extremely poor and people were in desperate need of food. Despite the clear humanitarian needs at Hopley Farm, the government was providing almost no humanitarian aid beyond an inadequate supply of water.

Operation Garikai/Hlalani Kuhle

On 29 June 2005 Operation Garikai/Hlalani Kuhle was launched. It was intended to provide new housing and premises for small business, ostensibly to address the needs of those affected by Operation Murambatsvina. It was reported that only a few thousand houses have been constructed countrywide, and of those houses designated as “built”, many remained incomplete, un-serviced or appeared to be uninhabited. In some cases people have reportedly only been given plots of land on which they are expected to build their own homes. In other cases people have been told the government will build a “core” structure for which they will have to pay and they are expected to build the rest of their home. To qualify for a core house, beneficiaries are reportedly asked to prove they have an income, which few have (being disposed squatters!). Also, statements by government officials suggest that many of the newly built houses will be allocated to civil servants as a priority over the homeless.

Other information

Further Reading

File:PortaFarmAmnesty.pdf

  1. [Dorman, Sara Rich, C. Understanding Zimbabwe: From Liberation to Authoritarianism], Understanding Zimbabwe: From Liberation to Authoritarianism, (C. Hurst and Co, United Kingdom, 2016), Retrieved: 15 October 2019
  2. 2.0 2.1 Background history to Porta farm incident, Kubatana, Published: 14 September 2004, Retrieved: 15 August 2022
  3. Zimbabwe. Shattered Lives - the case of Porta Farm, Amnesty International, Published: 20 May 1997, Retrieved: 15 August 2022