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New York Times

Zimbabwe's 'Cleanup' Takes a Vast Human Toll

Associated Press

Gertrude Mbare on Friday amid the rubble of her house in Harare, destroyed as part of Zimbabwe’s urban cleanup. The president’s campaign, uprooting the city poor, his biggest opponents, is remaking society.

Published: June 11, 2005

HARARE, Zimbabwe, June 10 - The government abruptly began demolishing shanties and roadside markets here three weeks ago, evicting thousands of people and bulldozing homes or burning them to the ground, in what officials call a cleanup of illegal slums and black-market vendors.

But as the campaign, directed at as many as 1.5 million members of Zimbabwe's vast underclass, spreads beyond Harare, it is quickly evolving into a sweeping recasting of society, a forced uprooting of the very poorest city dwellers, who have become President Robert G. Mugabe's most hardened opponents.

By scattering them to rural areas, Mr. Mugabe, re-elected to another five-year term in 2002, seems intent on dispersing the biggest threat to his 25-year autocratic rule as poverty and unemployment approach record levels and mass hunger and the potential for unrest loom.

The United Nations estimates that the campaign, Operation Murambatsvina, using a Shona word meaning "drive out the rubbish," has so far left 200,000 people homeless and 30,000 vendors jobless. Human rights and civic leaders say the numbers could be several times that, a view that seemed plausible during a four-day visit to Harare and Bulawayo, the nation's second-largest city, and points between.

No matter the precise numbers, the campaign is clearly one of the most aggressive steps yet taken against the Zimbabwe population by a government that has in recent years met rising international condemnation for stifling its opponents.

On the road from Bulawayo to Harare, pickup trucks and rickety handcarts groan with the belongings of newly evicted families, and fires from torched flea markets flicker in the dusk. The police man roadblocks and drive trucks through slums littered with bulldozed houses looking for resistance to the ongoing purge, but there is none.

In shattered Harare-area townships like Mbare and Mabvuku, a slum of about 100,000 people 10 miles east of Harare, the homeless sit beside furniture and clothes rescued from the destruction. There and elsewhere thousands sleep in the open, on farms and urban streets, in Zimbabwe's near-freezing winter nights.

The police ransacked and burned whole blocks of vendors' stalls this week and last in Bulawayo, and razed squatter camps, slums and roadside stands last week in Victoria Falls. The campaign has spread to rural areas like Rimuka, a township 85 miles southwest of Harare, where policemen equipped with riot gear destroyed homes and stands on Tuesday.

"Some were refused the right to take out their goods," said Ignatius Magonese, 62, a Rimuku resident who was pushing his family's possessions, heaped high atop a trailer welded of rebar, down the Harare-Bulawayo highway. "They pushed them down with the house. Then they told them to pick up their things and leave. Some other older people were crying, just like saying, 'This is the end of my life. Where will I put my things? Where will I go?' "

Mr. Mugabe says the campaign is a long-overdue step to rid Zimbabwe of what he told Parliament on Thursday was "a chaotic state of affairs" in the nation's cities and towns. The street vendors being uprooted work in the black market and pay no taxes, he has said, and the shacks being demolished were built illegally on plots already occupied by registered homes that have been spared destruction.

"Our cities and towns had deteriorated to levels that were a real cause for concern," Mr. Mugabe said in a speech on May 27. Beyond their crumbling roads and overtaxed utilities, he said, urban areas "had become havens for illicit and criminal practices and activities which just could not be allowed to go on."

But by attacking the shanty dwellers and so-called informal traders, whose black-market businesses have supplanted much of the official state-dominated economy, the government also hopes to reclaim control of the foreign currency that the official economy desperately needs.

That would solidify Mr. Mugabe's authority at a time when Zimbabwe's economic and human crises seem to have eroded it. One Harare political analyst who refused to be identified for fear of retribution said: "I think they know what the country is going to look like in a few months, and they want to clear out the towns, to clear these people way out of here. It's a governing strategy, no doubt about it."

Whatever the political benefits, however, witnesses and experts say the impact on the campaign's targets is already proving catastrophic.

With no income and no homes, many families are fleeing to the countryside, where both poverty and hunger are worse even than in the cities, and jobs are nonexistent. With no black market to offer basic goods that the state-run economy has failed to provide, shortages of food and gasoline are certain to worsen.

The government has rounded up some of the newly homeless and deposited them on farms, telling them that they will be offered legal housing later. But that seems unlikely; in Harare alone, a city of 1.9 million people, the official waiting list for housing already exceeds 600,000 families, said Kingsley Kanyuchi, the chairman of the residents' association in a Harare suburb, Glen Norah.

Meanwhile, the evicted are further crowding the overstuffed homes of relatives and neighbors, or sleeping in the open. Stories of suffering and death abound.

Mr. Kanyuchi told of encountering a funeral procession last week for two children who died of exposure after being evicted. Suicides also are rising because of the "brutal" evictions, said the special rapporteur on adequate housing at the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, Miloon Kothari.

"It's a gross violation of human rights in terms of Zimbabwe's international obligations," Mr. Kothari said Friday in a telephone interview from Geneva. "People are desperate. They just have nowhere to go."

Interviews this week with victims of the campaign only underscored that point. In conversation after conversation, it was clear that the demolitions were being felt far beyond the residents and merchants who were the principal targets.

In Bulawayo, the police burned the stalls of hundreds of downtown vendors, many of them licensed by the city, and carted their goods away. By destroying her business, said a 41-year-old woman who had sold clothing hauled in from nearby Botswana, the police cut off all support not only for her three children, but also for six relatives in Solusi, 30 miles to the east via a dirt road.

The woman, who was afraid to be named, said she had borrowed 18 million Zimbabwe dollars, or about $720 at the current black-market exchange rate, to open the stand and obtain the license. "This week I must pay 2 million to the bank," she said. "I don't know where I'll get it."

In Mabvuku and neighboring Tafara, Harare townships built 35 years ago to house the domestic workers of white citizens, the head of the local residents' association said most of the shacks being razed had provided rental income to the plots' owners, mostly retirees dating to the area's founding.

"Every stand has accumulated three to five families" living in outbuildings that were destroyed, said the head of the association, Joseph Rose. "There were more tenants than landlords on these properties. This area was built for low-income people, and when they retired, they didn't have pensions. So this is how they lived - from their lodgers."

The lodgers are gone now, forced by the police to tear down their own homes. "When I came home Monday from work, things had just gone crazy," said Errison Mapani, a 26-year-old security guard who had rented an outbuilding for the last year. "I had to run to find a place at a friend's house where I could put my things." Mr. Mapani has yet to find a new place to live. He expects to quit work and move to Mutare, a rural outpost on the Mozambique border.

About 300 people were left homeless when the shacks of farm workers in Ruwa, 10 miles east of Harare, were torn down, said Matsakira Nona. Ms. Nona said that half of the displaced were ordered to leave. The rest, including her 10 children, have camped in a corner of the farm for two weeks. She once supported her children by selling tomatoes. The police have stopped that, too, she said.

The government's drive shows no sign of slowing down. The police and bulldozers have yet to reach Glen Norah, a sprawling, 35-year-old township about 15 miles south of Harare. But from a hillside there, smoke could be seen on Wednesday curling from burning vendors' stalls in Glen View, about a half-mile across a valley.

Riot police razed several Glen Norah shops last week as a warning of what residents would face.

"Just go around. People are already pulling down their roofs and buildings," Mr. Kanyuchi, the Glen Norah residents' association chairman, said of his neighbors on Wednesday. "Of every five vehicles, two are loaded with goods" of fleeing families and vendors.

Mr. Kanyuchi surveyed the township in an effort to gauge the impact of the impending destruction. He guessed that three in four of the area's 92,000 households had families living in outbuildings marked for destruction, and that most of those families - also tenants of retirees - had children in the local schools and will be forced to drop out.

Many will end up in places like Brunapeg, a middle-of-nowhere village nearly 100 miles southwest of Bulawayo, where refugees already are appearing at the mission hospital in search of food and medical help.

Brunapeg, the epicenter of a 1980's massacre in which Mr. Mugabe's army killed as many as 20,000 ethnic Ndebeles, is now the epicenter of a drought. Many people there are running out of corn meal, the staple food, and wheat, the fallback. Some are digging peanuts and foraging among wild plants for food, Pedro Porrino, a Spanish physician who works there, said in an interview in Bulawayo.

"The situation in rural areas was very bad," Dr. Porrino said. "But these days, with the situation in the towns, it's becoming even worse. We're receiving more people, and we have nothing to offer them - because we had nothing to offer the people who are already there."

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Aid and Trade are Not Enough.

This past week and the weeks ahead are likely to be dominated by discussion
on the future of Africa and the role that aid, debt relief and trade reform
can play in alleviating the devastating poverty in much of Africa. But I am
afraid that this debate will miss the main obstacle to growth and
development in Africa, which is weak and corrupt leadership.

In 1983 I traveled to Ghana to collect a debt. That alone caused much
amusement in Ghana itself - they thought it was a joke that I would travel
up over half the continent to try and collect a debt that could never be
paid. The reason - Ghana had imploded, the International Airport had small
trees growing in the runway and the hotel I stayed in had no water or
electricity. Passengers getting off the aircraft with me looked like
refugees carrying water and other "essentials". The famous local university
looked as if it had been bombed, buildings vandalized and roofs stolen.

What had happened - nothing much. Aid had poured in; they had a wonderful
start at independence with good foreign exchange reserves, a well-educated
administration and rich resources. They had not fought a war for liberation;
there were no internal conflicts, only rotten, corrupt, self-serving
leadership. Ghana was a failed State - it scared me and I wondered, could
this happen at home in Zimbabwe?

It could and it has. Zimbabwe was given every chance to succeed - open
access to global markets on a preferential basis, massive foreign aid from
all quarters, technical assistance in whatever field was requested. We
started out with an educated elite - many of whom had lived abroad for a
number of years. We had a diverse economy based on mining, agriculture,
industry and commerce. We were virtually debt free. The world was at our
feet but we blew it.

Today Zimbabwe is a basket case - we cannot feed our people, we have
destroyed over half the formal sector jobs in the economy, our industry is
in tatters, all other sectors of the economy either shrinking or stagnant.
Our social services are a mess and life expectancy has halved. We are poorer
than we were 30 years ago and there is no sign of an end to the decline and
all pervading despair.

No amount of aid or debt relief or trade concessions are going to help this
country get out of the hole it is in - only a radical change of direction
and leadership will do that and I am afraid that this same analysis applies
to many countries on the continent.

People talk of a "Marshal Plan" for Africa, failing to recognize that
countries like Zimbabwe have been the recipients of more aid per capita than
was applied to Europe in 1945. People talk about debt relief - we are not
servicing our debt at all at present, the US$7 billion in debt that we owe
is virtually free money anyway. Its not even trade - African countries have
had access to European markets on an extremely preferential basis for 25
years and yet only a tiny minority have taken up the opportunities

Our collapse is self inflicted, its home grown, and until this sort of
nonsense is addressed by the global and the African community, there is no
hope for countries like Zimbabwe, the Congo, Sudan, Somalia and so on. We
are our own worst enemies and we must fix what is wrong here at home in
Africa, before we can make effective use of the generosity of the developed
world and the new global village that offers such marvelous opportunities
and freedom.

The question is how to effect such changes without running the risk of being
accused of neo-colonialism? How to ensure that when leadership fails a
country, the people can change them without violence and mayhem? We have
tried here in Zimbabwe for the past 5 years - we have insisted on no
violence, no guns, we have worked to secure a democratic, legal transfer of
power to new, popular leadership and we have not succeeded - why? It has
been simply because African leaders pay lip service to the fundamentals of
the rule of law and democracy.

When it comes to the wholesale theft of national resources and the
subversion of the rule of law and democracy, our leaders are in a league all
by themselves. We have become adept at manipulating the media and foreign
governments and the multinational agencies such as the World Bank and the
UN. To this long list we perhaps should now add the G8 leadership and Bob
Geldof. We allow African leaders to strut across the platforms of the world
stage as if they were acting in the real interests of their people and not
acting simply as self-serving tyrants.

Quite frankly until African leaders themselves put their own houses in order
there should be no talk of assistance of any kind. It is ridiculous that
Ethiopia with its rich agricultural resources has been supported by massive
food aid for over 20 years. Just take a look at Nigeria - one of the oil
giants of the world yet threatened with instability and rising poverty that
belies its wealth and status.

Development and poverty alleviation take discipline, honesty, openness and
democracy in national political life. It takes hard work and commitment and
the strict observance of the rule of law and the guarantee of investor
rights and business contracts. If African leaders applied these principles
to their own and their public lives they would bring prosperity and freedom
to their countries.

It's got nothing to do with race, or discrimination, or unfair trading
practices or a shortage of resources - human and financial. Ours is a
homegrown crisis and it can only be resolved by home grown solutions. And do
not think that economic collapse and human suffering will by themselves
bring change - just look at North Korea and Myanmar for example.

The global community needs to completely isolate tyrannical regimes like the
above and the Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe and then demand that they affect
real reforms before they are allowed back into the world community. If we
fail to address the issue of leadership in these countries then we condemn
both those countries and their millions of people to hardship and poverty
and human deprivation that can only be overcome by flight to another country
which will offer a better life. Human migration on this basis simply makes
things worse in both the affected States.

Aid and trade are not enough.

Eddie Cross

Bulawayo 11 June 2005

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A Peoples Government?

I have just come in from visiting the squatter camps at Kilarney outside
Bulawayo. They have been there since independence in 1980 and are home to a
transient population of homeless people who live in makeshift shelters. You
can see how long they have been there by the trees and shrubs that have been

Today there were just smoking ruins of what had been homes. The people were
sitting with what they had left - a few blankets and pots and sticks.
Perhaps an item of furniture or two. We saw armed Police still at work with
smoke billowing up behind them in the valley below us. A local Pastor said
to us that they had threatened him when they found him talking to the people
in one settlement.

There are three separate camps - all told I am informed, about 2000 men,
women and children. The site is on a barren hillside facing south and
tonight we will have sub zero temperatures and a southeast wind blowing all
the way from the artic across South Africa.

Three days ago they were warned - move or else. Many started to dismantle
their meager homes, many simply ignored the threat. Today several Chinese
made military vehicles arrived with a number of armed police onboard and
these then went from settlement to settlement burning homes and ordering the
people to move by tomorrow (Sunday) or face the destruction of their
personal belongings.

This community of the poorest people in the country will spend tonight out
in the open. Local Pastors said they would go in after the Police left the
area to assess needs and to ask the people what they wanted to do. 90 per
cent have nowhere to go at all.

Last week I saw a similar exercise in Dulibadzimu - a township in the Border
town of Beitbridge. My estimate then was that in that exercise at least a
third of the total population of the town would be rendered homeless. I
personally put 5 families into my workshop until they can find an
alternative. A widow I know, Mrs. Siphali, came to me and said they have
destroyed my home and I have three children in local schools - one about to
write O levels. "What can you do" she asked?

What makes this pogrom against the absolute poor so evil is that it is at
the worst time of the year - mid winter. There has been little warning and
no preparation of any alternative accommodation and the exercise is being
carried out nationwide - millions of people are involved. If this were not
stopped I would estimate that at least 2 million people - many of them
children - will be rendered homeless and destitute. Without access to social
amenities, water and sanitation.

Many will take the only route to safety - across the Limpopo and South
Africa will have to brace itself for another influx of economic refugees
from Zimbabwe. This time however they will be desperate and will be prepared
to do anything to make a bit of money and I mean anything.

Eddie Cross

Bulawayo 11th June 2005

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Opposition Leaders Press Ahead With More Mass Protests
Tafi Murinzi

BULAWAYO, June 11 (IPS) - Another eventful week in Zimbabwe; a two-day
stay-at-home strike achieved very limited success that was blamed on poor
leadership and mobilisation.

But the organisers - civic groups and the main opposition - said they were
pressing ahead with more protests, continuing from as early as next week.

Fliers, anonymous mobile phone text messages as well as the odd newspaper
article, implored urban Zimbabweans to stay at home June 9-10.

But many went about their normal business, amid reports that businesses were
threatened with unspecified action if they closed.

Among those in the main urban districts were bankers and civil servants
disinclined to risk the penalties of 'absenteeism', shoppers hoping to stock
up on increasingly scarce basic foodstuffs and motorists whiling away time
in mile-long fuel queues.

However, Lovemore Madhuku, spokesman of what is known as a 'broad
alliance' - a coalition of labour unions, students associations and
political organisations - estimates that 50 percent heeded the boycott call,
especially on the first day, in the two biggest cities of Harare and

The point of what locally is called a 'stayaway', he says, was to send a
message to the government that people were not happy with the way it was
handling issues, particularly its ongoing clampdown of the informal sector.

Known as 'Murambatsvina', (Drive Out Rubbish) or 'Restore Hope', the
clampdown has so far resulted in the death of two people. Over 200, 000
people are homeless. Some 30,000 street vendors have been detained.

''I don't think this government can fool itself and say failure of the
people to have a 100-percent response is a denunciation of the processes of
the stayaway,'' Madhuku argues.

But the government appeared unfazed, even though the opposition's 41
legislators boycotted the opening of parliament as part of the week's

President Robert Mugabe, who likened the legislators to immature children,
also rubbished swirling rumours that he was in a coma or dead.

Speculation of the 81-year-old leader's health heightened due to his absence
from the public eye after a local newspaper reported, almost two weeks ago,
that he had been to see a prominent heart specialist in Harare.

However, even if the president's health is now less doubtful, the economy's
is no longer disguisable. A plane belonging to the national airline made an
emergency landing at Johannesburg International airport in neighbouring
South Africa Wednesday, injuring five passengers.

Observers linked the mishap to Zimbabwe's critical foreign exchange shortage
which might have prevented 'Air Zimbabwe' from servicing or replacing spares
within the required timeframe.

Zimbabwe's economic crisis has deepened since 1999 when, facing its first
electoral defeat since independence from Britain in 1980, the government
hastily embarked on a 'fast-track' land-reform programme meant, ostensibly,
to redress colonial imbalances.

A five-year military adventure in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
also took its toll on what was one of Africa's strongest economies.

Three months ago the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front
(ZANU-PF) extended its parliamentary majority in the third successive
general election rocked by allegations of rigging.

But what has stretched the public's sense of outrage and galvanised latent
rage is a three-week government operation meant to rid urban centres of
unauthorised buildings and street vendors.

The clean-up has also targeted 'criminal activity' and the parralel market
which the government blames for a shortage of fuel and foreign exchange.

Church and human rights groups, such as Amnesty International, have
criticised the operation, particularly as it comes amid worsening economic
hardships which include rampant unemployment.

However, many say the week's mass action, the first such protest in about
two years, was badly organised and lacked clear ownership among the

The last major protest in June 2003 was dubbed the 'final push'. It resulted
in MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai being charged for treason, while scores of
other people were beaten by the police.

''Where I stay, we just saw some fliers the day before the event,'' says a
resident who gave his name as Farai. ''We didn't know where they were coming
from; you couldn't tell if they were from any recognised organisation.''

Allegations of an uneasy relationship among the alliance members have also
arisen. ''There does seem to be competition among the organisations,'' says
George Mkhwananzi, the advocacy chairman of the National Constitutional
Assembly (NCA), which is part of the coalition.

A further concern is that the civic society coalition is not broad enough.
For instance, it excludes the militant 'Women of Zimbabwe Arise' (WOZA)
which claims to have the ability to mobilise up to 500 women within two

The organisation is planning its own protest next Saturday ahead of World
Refugee Day. WOZA has also mobilised exiled Zimbabweans in Britain and South
Africa to gather and protest outside Zimbabwean embassies.

Since its formation in 2003 WOZA has staged numerous street protests. To
date, none of its members have been convicted under Zimbabwe's stringent
public order legislation. Its strategy is to organise demonstrations around
international events, like Valentine's Day or International Women's Day.

''We have not been part of a stayaway simply because the women of WOZA
believe in peaceful, direct action,'' says co-ordinator Jenni Williams.

The activist questions the effectiveness of a stayaway when 80 percent of
the population has no jobs to stayaway from.

''The lessons of WOZA have taught us that if you want to put pressure on the
regime you must mobilise people door to door, talking to people about the
issues that are affecting them and proposing to them that one of the ways is
peaceful resistance,''Williams says.

But Gorden Moyo, who heads the civic education group Bulawayo Agenda, says
the fact that people responded without being organised, and with little
information, proves that the protest was successful.

''I'm one of those people celebrating the success of this stayaway,'' he
says, likening the resolution of Zimbabwe's crisis to a marathon. ''The
regime in Zimbabwe is worse than apartheid, and how long did it take to get
rid of apartheid?'' (END/2005)
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Daily Mirror, Zimbabwe

Attorney General's office set for major changes

The Daily Mirror Reporter
issue date :2005-Jun-11

THE Attorney General (AG)'s Office is set for major changes if the Attorney
General's Office Bill of 2005 is adopted by the sixth Parliament officially
opened by President Robert Mugabe last Thursday.
Among other things, the Bill seeks: "To constitute the AG's office,
establish the AG's office board and to provide for its functions, to provide
for its administration and the conditions of service of members of the AG's
office, to provide for the transfer of persons from the public service to
the AG's office, to make consequential amendments to various Acts and to
provide for matters connected with or incidental to the foregoing."
Section 4 of the Bill will establish the AG's board constituting the AG as
its chairperson, the deputy or deputies, a member of the Public Service
Commission (PSC) appointed by the chair and three others appointed by the
The board will be responsible for supervising, administering and appointing
personnel to the AG's office, dealing with complaints and grievances made by
or against members of the office, among other issues.
The board will also be independent of any person or authority.
"In the exercise of the above functions the board shall not be subject to
the control or direction of any person or authority, other than for the
purpose of audit by the Auditor-General of those funds of the board that are
voted by Parliament or charged on the Consolidated Revenue Fund by this Act
or any other law," reads part of the Bill.
The AG's office board will also be expected to lay before Parliament
periodic reports.
"The AG shall lay before Parliament within three months after the 31
December each year, or, if no sitting of Parliament takes place within that
period, on one of the 14 days on which Parliament first sits after that
period, an
annual report upon the matters dealt with by the board during that year,"
"May at any time lay before Parliament a special report on any matter upon
which the board considers desirable to report," the Bill reads.
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Daily Mirror, Zimbabwe

Accommodation crisis looms at UZ

The Daily Mirror Reporter
issue date :2005-Jun-11

IT is the Zimbabwe government's responsibility to ensure tertiary students
whose illegal lodgings were destroyed by the nation-wide blitz get
alternative affordable accommodation before the next semester.
The call was made by the University of Zimbabwe (UZ)'s Student Executive
Council (SEC) amid growing concerns of looming accommodation crisis
affecting most students at the country's oldest institution of higher
learning in the wake of Operations Murambatsvina/Restore Order.
Speaking for the first time on Thursday about the ongoing blitzkrieg, the
president of the UZ's SEC, Hentchel Mavuma, emphasised that nearly 10 000
students would require new lodgings when they return for studies in August.
He said out of an annual enrolment of about 13 000 students, only 4 000
resided on campus while the rest had to make do with inhabitable quarters at
the mercy of unscrupulous greedy landlords setting irrational and
unaffordable rental rises.
Mavuma called for a holistic approach to addressing the perennial problem of
accommodation at the UZ now compounded by a high intake and already over
stretched resources.
"This leaves more than 9 000 students facing the problem of securing
accommodation. Accommodation has always been a problem but the Murambatsvina
operation will make the issue a nightmare," he said.
UZ students are presently on vacation and the first semester of 2005 is
expected to start in August.
Admitting that the blitz was noble, Mavuma, however, blamed the "rushed"
clean-up operation for creating homeless families overnight.
"We are seeing a catastrophe when the first semester of 2005 begins in
August, just two months away because of the clean-up," he said.
"As the students executive council we are against the clean-up campaign,
especially the way it is being carried out. The principle is okay but the
process is not."
 But the government has expressed no regrets maintaining that the clean-up
to rid the country of illegal
traders and structures was long overdue.
Indications are that the two-day stayaway, which started on Thursday and
ended yesterday, flopped as the bulk of the workers, ignored the call and
reported for duty as usual.
Meanwhile, the Harare Polytechnic has elected a new Student Executive
Council (SEC) presided over by Stephen Matenga of the Division of Mass
The polls were conducted on May 31 by an independent electoral commission
(IEC) consisting of poly students and declared "free and fair".
Others student executive members are: Elvis Mpofu - Vice President
Terry Mutsvanga - Information and Publicity (Mass Communications-unopposed)
Khumbulani Zamchiya - Entertainment (Art)
Samuel Sebastian Sizo - Public Relations (Art)
Sebastian Mangezvo - Food and Accommodation
Luka Manda - Secretary General
Samuel Matimba - Politics and Culture
Adam Ngwarati - Sport
Tawanda Chifamba - Treasurer.
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June 10th 05

We have run out of mealie meal and must now start to scavenge like the rest
of the community. Actually it is not quite as dramatic as that. Some locals
did reap quite respectable crops but they are hording against the days
ahead. And who can blame them. Tau grew a respectable half hectare this last
season and for the first time followed my advise regarding composting in his
sandy soils. He thus retained what moisture there was from our erratic rains
and his crop survived where as his neighbour's failed. I may be able to buy
a bag or two from him - we only need it for the poultry so that will
probably see us through.

This morning we had a bit of a lie in and then I made breakfast. Our Sunday
tradition is that I do the cooking! This means fried eggs and bacon for
breakfast, a "saamie" for lunch and baked beans on toast for supper!  But
this morning to my horror there were no eggs. Rather than tramp over to our
neighbours, whose pullets have just started to lay, I decided to cook up a
tomato mess! I rather surprised myself. Spring onions, fresh basil and
tarragon, tomatoes, two bananas, all out of the garden, fried in a wok with
olive oil and a bit of seasoning and a sprinkle of brown sugar! Talk about
Jamie Oliver! I ended off the meal with a slice or two of toast: the Dragon
Lady's latest batch of lime marmalade is the best ever - it has such a clean
and refreshing tang to it. Not a bit like Mr. Rose's product with its
artificial colouring and chemical preservatives. And then to round off the
feast I had more than a few slices of toast and wild honey. Washed down with
three mugs of coffee t'was  "as luscious as locusts"! (My goodness but those
Arabie chaps certainly didn't get a lot of variety in their diet if locusts
were a treat!).

In order to garner the necessary herbs for this little feast, I went out
into the herb garden behind the office. At my feet, as I bent to pick some
tarragon, a young Hueglin's robin was dawdling about looking for worms in a
desultory sort of way.  He was completely unmoved by my presence, as are
most of our birds and animals. The squirrels actually shout abuse at us! But
the "hoodlums" are amongst our favourite and abundant birds.  Their early
morning song brings me awake in the dawn. And then all through the day they
can be heard imitating other birds in the garden. Our bulbuls are back from
a brief excursion elsewhere in the valley. As soon as our papaws start to
ripen they descend on us and it is a race to see who can eat them first,
them or us. Generally, however, it is the monkeys that pip us to the post! I
wage a constant war against them, in particular a gentleman known to all of
us as Blueballs.

Blueballs is an alpha male who delights amongst other things in tormenting
Dotty our aging Jack Russel-Foxy, who hates him with a passion. Recently we
acquired a very modern factory-made catapult with very strong  "catty-lacky".
It even has an aiming device and is remarkably accurate if you have decent
round stones. Even if you miss, the sound of the stone ripping through the
foliage on the Waterberry trees is alarming and the monkeys are quickly
coming to recognise it as a thing to be reckoned with. But Blueballs is a
show-off and likes to chatter and shout at us from his treetop in arrogant
territorial defiance. A few days ago I managed to creep up on him from
behind. I am unashamed to report that I hit him squarely in that part of his
anatomy for which he is named. He let out a very human grunt of pain,
toppled off his branch and crashed down a few feet before he was able to
grab a passing bit of tree. He then made off into the forest and I could
hear him muttering and cursing for a while before he slipped further off to
nurse the injuries to his pride and his, shall we say, ambition. In a long
life of hunting Vervets it was my most satisfying achievement.

These harmless rural pursuits are in strong contrast to the Banderlog-like
behaviour of our politically driven police and army who are engaged in the
most ferocious and mindless operation. For the last week and more they have
been hounding street hawkers and  "informal traders", shack dwellers and
even the flower sellers who ply their trade opposite The Meikles on Cecil
Square - or what ever they call it now .

There have been flower sellers there for as long as I can remember. This
week there were none; all driven off by the police. No one seems to be able
to provide an adequate explanation for this blitskrieg. More than 20 000
people have been arrested, many thousands have been rendered homeless and
all have been reduced to total ruin, their meagre wares either confiscated
or destroyed. The operation is code-named Murambatvina which means to
"refuse or deny dirt". The term is used idiomatically and usually means more
than its literal translation. The subject concord mu indicates "you" in the
plural, so murambatvina means you deny (abhor) dirt/filth. You (pl) can
indicate the plural of respect thus it may be "one respected person" who
abhors this filth.

A generation or two ago the height of insult was to call a Shona person
Mutsvina often corrupted to Musvina or Muswina.  During the early days of
British occupation, the first Europeans often called the Shona Masvina, as
this was a derogatory term applied to them by the Ndebele, one which they
innocently (?) inherited. Indeed the Rev Lowe, of the DRC at Morgenster
Mission, wrote one of the first Shona grammars and titled it a Swina
Grammar. Some years ago Mugabe referred to the people in Mbare as Vasina
Mitupo,  people with no totems, i.e non-people - a terrible insult - rubbish
in fact - tsvina.

It is my belief that this diabolical demonstration of power with its
insulting and carefully chosen, cynically symbolic code-name, is a way of
telling the MDC city voters, that they are "dirt" and that the Party still
has the power to rule and to punish.

It also pre empts the growing unrest and keeps people off the central
streets of the city. All Zimbabwe's cities were designed by the colonial
authorities so that in times of unrest the masses would find it very hard to
march on the city centre. Get people out of the city centre and it is
impossible for them to get in.  In the townships they can be contained and
dealt with away from the eyes of those brave enough to try and record what
is happening. And certainly in the townships there was some action. But as
the reports coming out are necessarily biased no one knows how much mayhem
has been caused. My difficulty with the official opposition is that they
have made very effort to stop the people rioting. They wish rather to take
legal action. How can you take legal action against what is essentially an
illegal action? What is needed is for their leaders to be with them on the
barricades. It is no longer possible to fight this sort of thing in the
courts, which themselves are mere ciphers.

But maybe I am an old fashioned reactioary who knows that our human
behaviour in the final analysis is not much removed from my friend
Blueballs. Give a man a swift jolt in the essentials, so that his gonads
collide with his tonsils and you have a man with a philosophical interest in
a career change.

The fuel crisis continues. We are told that the reason the country has no
"forex" is that these above named informal traders ("hooligans and
 saboteurs") have wrecked the economy with their hoarding, their illegal
currency dealing and their black market prices. Justifying the mayhem is the
search for hoarded goods and forex. Once they get their hands on the loot,
then the economy will revive and the flow of fuel be restored.

And there are people who believe this! Well, there were people who believed
Herr Hitler would drive the Russians and Americans out of Berlin just hours
before the Ruskies stormed the Chancellery.

Mankind has a heroic ability to delude itself.


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New Zealand Herald

      Cricket: Security cranked up as chaos rules in Zimbabwe


      By Dylan Cleaver

      New Zealand Cricket [NZC] has employed a Zimbabwean to monitor
security arrangements as the troubled country descends into further turmoil.

      At this stage it still appears tangible security risks to players will
be the only grounds for the Black Caps not touring in August.

      To that end NZC chief executive Martin Snedden said they had engaged
Darren Maughan to oversee all security arrangements.

      "The security is an ongoing situation. We've had a security officer
appointed for a month now," Snedden said.

      "He was used by Australia and England last year and was highly
recommended by both of them. It's a constant monitoring process, there's no
sort of deadline on it."

      NZC is maintaining their policy on not commenting on any of the
political aspects of touring and the Herald on Sunday understands not one
player has voiced any concerns about touring the troubled country.

      Over the past week Robert Mugabe has implemented an operation called
Murambatsvina (Shona for Operation Drive Out Trash), bulldozing whole
residential districts and suppressing street traders in Harare and other
urban centres.

      While there's been widespread condemnation of Mugabe's rule in the
famine- and Aids-ravaged state, the cricket world has been reluctant to
boycott the country.

      According to Black Caps batsman Hamish Marshall, it has not even been
a point of conversation among the players. "Not at all. We've just left it
in NZC's hands. To be honest I don't think many of the lads have really
thought about it," Marshall said when speaking to the paper recently.

      "We'll wait to see what NZC says and go from there."

      What NZC will likely say is that the Black Caps will tour - unless
there are compelling security issues.

      NZC controversially pulled out of a scheduled World Cup match in Kenya
because of safety concerns, a move that almost cost it a place in the top
six playoffs.

      Given it gets the security green light, NZC does not actually have a
decision to make. All test-playing countries bought into the International
Cricket Council's 10-year plan that dictates future series.

      Only the ICC or the Government can tell NZC not to go and the latter
has stated it won't make that demand and the former has shown little
inclination of supporting a boycott of Zimbabwe.

      If NZC acted independently and refused to send a team, not only would
they face a US$2m fine from the ICC, they would also face massive
compensation claims from the Zimbabwe Cricket Union.

      Included in the compensation could be the loss of earnings from the
on-selling of television rights.

      Given the tour includes a one-day tri-series with India, which has a
massive TV audience, this could be crippling.

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