Last Updated: Monday, 30 May 2016, 14:07 GMT

Internal Displacement: Global Overview of Trends and Developments in 2010 - Zimbabwe

Publisher Norwegian Refugee Council/Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (NRC/IDMC)
Publication Date 23 March 2011
Cite as Norwegian Refugee Council/Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (NRC/IDMC), Internal Displacement: Global Overview of Trends and Developments in 2010 - Zimbabwe, 23 March 2011, available at: [accessed 30 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Quick facts
Number of IDPs570,000-1,000,000
Percentage of total population4.5-7.9%
Start of current displacement situation2000
Peak number of IDPs (Year)Undetermined
New displacementUndetermined
Causes of displacementDeliberate policy or practice of arbitrary displacement, human rights violations
Human development index169

Several hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans have been internally displaced, often more than once, but no official estimates of their numbers are available. By the end of 2010, the government had still not released the results of a small-scale assessment of the situation and number of IDPs which it had conducted with UN agencies in August 2009. This delay raised concerns about how to proceed with a comprehensive IDP assessment in 2011, even though some parts of the government had agreed on its necessity to guide humanitarian interventions and plan for durable solutions.

Government actions have been the main drivers of displacement. For example, in the ten years since the start of the fast-track land reform programme in 2000, hundreds of commercial farms have been taken over in illegal farm invasions. UNDP estimated in 2008 that the farm invasions had led a million people (200,000 farm workers and their families) to lose their homes as well as their livelihoods on the farms.

In 2005 the government destroyed tens of thousands of urban dwellings in Operation Murambatsvina ("clear the filth"), stating that the structures did not comply with urban building regulations. The UN estimated that 570,000 people were made homeless by the demolitions, and condemned the evictions as unlawful since the victims had received insufficient or no notice, had not been consulted, and had not been provided with alternative accommodation. A government programme to construct new homes proved wholly inadequate, providing accommodation to no more than a few thousand people; in many instances the new occupants of these homes were not in fact victims of Operation Murambatsvina but beneficiaries of political patronage.

In 2006 and 2007 the government destroyed the homes of thousands of informal mine workers in Operation Chikorokoza Chapera ("stop the gold panning"). Since then, ill-regulated mining operations in the Marange diamond fields have continued to cause arbitrary displacement, affecting both mine workers and local communities.

Following the elections of 2008, supporters of the ZANU-PF party resorted to violence in an effort to prevent opposition supporters from voting. Estimates of the number of people internally displaced by this political violence ranged from 36,000 to 200,000.

In 2010, new instances of displacement followed a variety of events. Political violence, though on a smaller scale than in 2008, forced some political activists into displacement, but also affected people without political affiliations. In November, violence connected to the nationwide consultations on the draft constitution left 43 families homeless in Mhangura in Mashonaland West Province, when their homes were burnt down by ZANU-PF supporters.

Farm invasions continued to have an impact on farm workers, with unknown numbers of workers and their families losing their homes on commercial farms. The government also continued to subject people to arbitrary evictions. In August, officers from the Zimbabwe Republic Police raided and destroyed an informal settlement at Borrowdale Race Course in Harare, leaving at least 55 people homeless. Insecurity of tenure continued to pose serious problems to many victims of Operation Murambatsvina, including in settlements which the government had set up for victims, such as Hatcliffe Extension near Harare.

Following years of decline, Zimbabwe had in 2010 the lowest score of all countries included in the Human Development Index. The collapse of the Zimbabwean economy had affected almost the entire population, but IDPs were among the worst affected and most vulnerable groups, because displacement had eroded their livelihoods and coping capacity. Their access to social services, including health and education, had often been severely disrupted. Between ten and 15 per cent of children in Zimbabwe are believed to have never attended primary school, with children from displaced communities reportedly among the groups most affected.

Few of Zimbabwe's IDPs have found a durable solution. Some have joined relatives in rural areas, adding further pressure on limited services and livelihood opportunities there. Many displaced farm workers and mine workers have moved to the towns, only to be affected once more by forced evictions. Many IDPs still lack security of tenure and access to permanent shelter or sustainable livelihoods. In the absence of durable solutions, it is crucial to establish the number and whereabouts of IDPs who still need humanitarian assistance, including food aid and access to sanitation, clean water, and basic health care.

Humanitarian clusters were introduced in Zimbabwe in 2008. A distinguishing feature of the cluster system in Zimbabwe is the IDP sub-cluster under the protection cluster. The clusters have planned to assist 115,000 IDPs in 2011.

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