Given the legal and physical fighting over land and dispossession in Zimbabwe, it’s truly ironic that there is no overt constitutional right to shelter. That lack was brought home in a recent judgment of the Supreme Court, after it was asked to overturn a lower court decision against people in informal settlements outside Harare.

The group had "taken" a farm in 2000, at the "height of the land reform programme", as the court put it. A few years later, in 2005, all their structures were demolished by a government operation aimed at "clearing slums". The land where they were living was then "acquired by the state" and offered to developer Leengate...

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