Saturday, May 28, 2005 Demolition raids in Zimbabwe hit
opposition's support base President Mugabe calls for crackdown to 'drive out
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
demolished squatters' homes and rounded up street vendors, leaving thousands
homeless in Zimbabwe's opposition strongholds in what President Robert
Mugabe said was an urban clean-up campaign.
All the demolished homes were
in areas that voted for the opposition in Zimbabwe's parliamentary
elections, and Morgan Tsvangirai, an opposition leader, said that the
destruction was an assault on the urban poor who make up the opposition's
support base. Mugabe's ZANU-PF party claimed victory in the disputed vote on
State radio said yesterday that Mugabe, in his first comment on
the crackdown called "Operation Marambatsvina" or "drive out trash," told
the ruling party central committee that "genuine players in the small- and
medium-enterprise sector would be resettled in new and clean sites that
befit major cities."
Besides demolishing shacks in townships
surrounding Harare, police also raided squatter settlements around the
"Widowed mothers, grandmothers and youth have been affected by
this mindless clamp-down," said Jenni Williams, a spokeswoman for Women of
The organization called for June 18 to be a day of
peaceful protest against the demolition campaign.
Trudi Stevenson, an
opposition legislator for northern Harare, said that 500 to 700 houses in
the Hatcliffe district had been razed.
"The place looks like a bombed
site. It was a major military operation," Stevenson said.
of Hatcliffe, Emmanuel Chiroto, said that homeowners there had been
allocated plots by Housing Minister Ignatius Chombo in 2002 and had lease
agreements. The World Bank and USAID provided water and other
The demolition raids were started Thursday night although
the government said earlier it would not begin the destruction of informal
settlements until July. The government has not explained why it began the
"We really do not know where they (police)
are striking next," Lovemore Muchingedzi, a worker for the opposition party
Movement for Democratic Change, said yesterday in Glen Norah, a township on
the southern edge of Harare where witnesses said riots broke out overnight
as police arrested street vendors and burned their kiosks.
went around beating up anyone they came across. They made sure there was no
electricity in the area and under cover of darkness they were beating
everyone up," Muchingedzi said.
Edwell - not his real name - has been mending shoes on the streets of the
capital, Harare, for nearly 20 years. But the 46-year-old tells the BBC News
website how police forced him off the pavement as part of a crackdown on the
country's huge informal business sector.
" It was just past
noon when a Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) pick-up truck drove up to the
pavement where I sit and mend shoes.
Two policemen accompanied by
two other men got out. As they walked towards me they said: "You need to
take your things and go."
I asked them why but they refused to
They were very firm and just kept saying: "We don't want
you, we don't want you here, we want you to go from this
Even though I was so afraid, I tried arguing with them but
Full of fear, I tried asking
again but all they would say was: "We don't want excuses."
Shouting, "Listen, take your things and go" they then started chasing the
ladies selling vegetables away and so I put all my tools and customer's
shoes into my sack.
The ladies were all chased
I haven't seen them since. They're not selling vegetables any
more and so they must be suffering too.
The men didn't take
anything from me but I was so afraid.
I am lucky because the owners
of the business near the pavement, where I mended shoes for about 20 years,
are letting me work in their yard.
But now only my regulars know
where I am. Passers-by cannot see me anymore because now I am on the wrong
side of the wall.
There is little fuel now and commuter buses are
very scarce and so I walk the 10km to work and then back home again when it
Driven to tears
I am suffering even more
than before now.
My family is suffering because I am not
I am not very busy, sure.
Z$15,000 ($0.26) to fix heels and for soles it is about Z$35,000 ($0.60) and
now that I am hardly doing anything I am crying.
I recently had to
buy my 15-year-old son some things for school. All I could afford was his
books, a new pair of shoes and socks and some short trousers and it came to
over Z$200,000 ($3.60).
I still have to pay his school fees for
this term which come to Z$350,000 ($6.20).
WHEN President Robert Mugabe declared in 1982 that he was
going to urbanise Zimbabwe through development of growth points, little did
he know that 23 years later, his policies would destroy more towns than he
The plan was to identify potential areas for economic
growth, which would eventually be developed into towns in pursuit of
government's "growth with equity" policy.
But like most government
policies, it was a noble idea that lacked action. The tempo soon died down
as government dithered on funding. Most growth points have failed to
Twenty-three years down the line, apart from a few grocery shops, a
grinding mill and a chain of bottle stores tottering on the brink of
collapse, the growth points have failed to develop into economic zones that
would stem the rural-urban drift as envisaged by government.
is going in the opposite direction as most towns inherited from the colonial
era struggle to survive in the face of company closures across the country.
Government's skewed economic policies have killed more towns than it has
created since Independence.
The chaotic land reform only made things
worse by destroying the agricultural sector on which most towns relied for
survival. The result is the emergence of ghost towns decorated by flea
markets on the country's highways.
The disastrous effect of the land
reform and company closures can be best observed in Mashonaland West,
ironically Mugabe's home province.
It has the highest number of ghost
towns because it was Zimbabwe's best farming area and therefore was hardest
hit by the take over of commercial farms which fed the towns.
probably the province with the highest number of people outside Harare that
lost jobs due to company and mine closures and farm seizures. The small
towns dotted around the province are tottering on the brink of collapse
while some have already crumbled. There are seven ailing towns in the
province. Five are in the south of the province in the area around Kadoma
while the other two are in Chinhoyi town.
It is a sad picture that
greets people as they travel along the main road from Harare to Kadoma. The
first bleak portrait is Chegutu, an agricultural town that is struggling to
find its feet after the collapse of commercial farming in the
Companies fled the town at the peak of the chaotic land reform,
leaving thousands wallowing in poverty. David Whitehead, a listed textile
company which used to employ most people in the town, is also
Farms that used to sustain the town were violently
With the bulk of residents unemployed, many can't pay their
rates. Chegutu mayor Francis Dlakama who came in on an MDC ticket, says the
town is dying because of the destruction of its lifeblood - commercial
"When commercial agriculture collapsed because of the land
reform, it took with it the town which sank immediately," Dlakama
"Residents are failing to pay their rates because they are out of
work." Most residents now live on small incomes from individual vending
stalls whose profits can barely feed an average family of six. Others wait
patiently along the Harare-Bulawayo highway selling shrivelled oranges and
cabbages from newly-settled farmers.
"I used to work as a contractor
at the GMB silos but now I can't because there is no maize coming in," says
Raphael Changano, now a rank marshal at Pfupajena bus terminus.
1998 no meaningful industry has been set up in Chegutu. Barclays, which used
to provide loans and banking services to commercial farmers, closed shop
after its main customers were kicked out of the land.
The situation is
equally dire in Kadoma, some 35km down the road. Like Chegutu, Kadoma has
borne the brunt of collapsed commercial agriculture. The cotton and citrus
farms that used to offer seasonal jobs to residents are no more.
Cold Storage Company which relied on the surrounding farmers is battling to
survive. Kewada Supermarket chain, one of the prominent and oldest in the
town, has closed down while Kadoma Textiles is clutching at straws as it
fights to fend off competition from cheap Chinese imports.
in both towns has become the biggest employer as the private sector
continues to shrink. Roads are riddled with potholes while public toilets
are a stinking mess.
The closure of mines has hit smaller towns like
Chakari, 40km west of Kadoma. Venice and Chakari, owned by listed Falcon
Gold, have scaled down owing to viability problems. About 25km east of
Kadoma is Eiffel Flats, a Rio Tinto mine that also shut
Falgold, which has operated Chakari and Venice Mines for more than
45 years, says the economic situation is not conducive for profitable
operations. It blames government's foreign currency retention scheme,
subdued local gold prices and Zesa power cuts for its
Chakari, with a population of more than 200 000, is the hardest
hit by the crisis in the mining sector. Before its abrupt closure in 1997,
it employed more than 1 000 workers and supported thousands of
People now live on gold panning and vending. "This town is
dying. It is collapsing," said Progress Mugarazi (27).
has lived in Chakari for the past 15 years, says things have not been the
same since the closure of the mine. "We live on gold panning but it has not
been paying of late."
The construction of a Jehovah's Witness church
building last year is probably the only infrastructural improvement since
the closure of the mine eight years ago. A Bata shop, the only recognisable
national brand, recently closed down. School intakes have plummeted while
dropouts have risen as children follow their parents around gold panning
The councillor for the area refused to comment, saying she needed
permission from provincial leaders before talking to the
Eiffel Flats and Venice mines are also partly closed, not because
mineral deposits have been exhausted but because government policies have
made their ventures unviable. Venice is operating at 40% capacity after
Falgold decided to scale down because of viability troubles. Former mine
employees are now panners.
Eiffel Flats is refining nickel and copper
after its core business - underground gold mining - closed years back,
throwing thousands on the streets. At its peak the mine employed more than
800 people. Now it has less than 400, mostly contract workers.
northern part of Mashonaland West are Mhangura Mine and Karoi fast becoming
ghost towns. Mhangura collapsed after the Zimbabwe Mining Development
Corporation, a state-owned company, closed the mine 10 years
Government claims that it would revive the town have come to
Karoi is also sinking. The only commercial bank which operated a
branch there, has left the town after the collapse of commercial
agriculture. Like other towns in the region, Karoi used to survive from
vibrant commercial farming in the area. The new farmers are yet to undertake
serious production to sustain a viable business.
In Midlands Mvuma
and Chivhu in Mashonaland East are struggling to survive. In fact the only
reason they are recognisable is their location on the
Kamativi Tin mine in Matabeleland North is now a ghost town
after it closed years back. The government has taken advantage of the
infrastructure and turned it into a militia training camp. From a productive
mine town, Kamativi is now the training ground for the loathed "green
Buchwa mine outside Zvishavane, which used to produce iron for
Ziscosteel in Kwekwe, is no more. It has since been turned into a compound
and training camp for the police.
DIRECTING strangers in the capital's
Mabvuku and Tafara working class suburbs thus: "Go past the smoldering heap
of garbage, turn right when you see women and children queuing up for water
from a church water-cart, skirt round three huge potholes and you won't miss
the house you are looking for," no longer seems out of the
It has become a catch phrase for residents chagrined by
commonplace heaps of uncollected garbage that dot the city's residential
areas like unsightly landmarks and acute water shortages in the suburbs. Ask
any resident of the two suburbs what they hanker after most and the
"Reliable water supplies" instinctively rolls out.
residents of any other suburb in the capital the same question and they will
tell you: "Regular garbage collection."
When President Robert Mugabe
endorsed the appointment of the first unelected commission to run the
affairs of the city, little did he suspect that this would expose government
More importantly, uncollected garbage signifies the failure
of a system of political patronage that has swung back into the ruling Zanu
PF party's face.
Government fired its own appointed mayor the late
Solomon Tawengwa for gross incompetence, replacing his administration with
the Elijah Chanakira-led commission.
When he tasked Local Government
minister Ignatious Chombo to fire an elected opposition mayor Elias Mudzuri
on allegations of incompetence and for failing to reverse decades of
maladministration in six short months to spite the MDC urban electorate,
Mugabe thought that would endear him with the Zanu PF electorate. Instead,
his miscalculation has only served to disenchant both Zanu PF and MDC
supporters who could no longer put up with the daily tribulations, prompting
them to take to the streets in a spontaneous protest over shoddy
Spontaneous two-day protests in Harare's eastern suburbs of
Tafara and Mabvuku last week included residents of all political persuasions
and members of both the MDC and Zanu PF. They were an expression of
frustration by residents who have suffered from a lack of service delivery
for many months.
Over the past six months, the residents have been
forced into a daily scramble for water and to live with reeking heaps of
rubbish on their doorsteps.
Just last week, government appointed
additional commissioners to bolster the commission's performance up to next
month when its tenure expires. But observers view the appointments as a
serious indictment of acting mayor and commission chairperson Sekesai
Makwavarara's competence to run the city.
Mike Davies, the chairman of
the Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA), says: "The new
commissioners taken on board are a sign of desperation by the Zanu PF regime
to impose itself on residents of Harare."
Davies says his association is
"convinced that any solution to Harare's problems should be driven by
residents first through being allowed to choose their own
CHRA is preparing court papers to compel the commission
to set dates for both mayoral and ward elections. "We are in consultation
with stakeholders on the way forward which might result in civil
MP for Mabvuku Timothy Mabhawu said the people in his
constituency were fed up with the commission's rhetoric that something would
be done to remedy residents' problems.
"Makwavarara has betrayed the
people of Mabvuku ward who elected her into office in the first place. She
has betrayed Local Government minister Chombo who thrust her into a position
she is dismally incapable of executing too. The ineptness of the commission
is worrisome," Mabhawu says.
Davies complained that the heavy-handed
response by the police to residents' legitimate grievances was uncalled
CHRA says the physical assaults were brutal and intimidatory. The
laid under Section 17(1) a of Posa against those arrested carry a
prison sentence of up to 10 years and are at odds with the gravity of the
"For a modern city like Harare to be unable to
provide essential services such as potable water and waste removal to its
inhabitants is an indictment of both the political appointees currently
occupying Town House and their political masters," Davies says.
says besides the current woes, Zesa had informed residents to brace
themselves for power blackouts until July following damage to a local
transformer. "It is intolerable for residents to endure fetching water from
contaminated streams, burning firewood for heating and cooking and using
candles for lighting," he adds.
Out of frustration, CHRA is calling
for the suspension of increased rates and charges; an end to the imposed
commission; the restoration of a democratically elected mayor and council
and dialogue between residents and municipal officials to seek a way
forward. And if ever there was truth to the truism "fiddling while Rome
burns", it fits well the uncaring attitude of the commission running the
city's affairs whose forte has been to allow service delivery to crumble
right under its nose.
PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe is racing against time to establish a
Senate, to resolve the problem he created when he recently appointed
Sithembiso Nyoni as Informal Sector minister without a parliamentary
Top ruling Zanu PF sources said Mugabe's Senate plans were already
under way and Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa was working on the
principles of a Bill to set up the Upper House.
initiative could face stiff resistance in parliament as some Zanu PF MPs are
said to be opposed to a rushed project to rescue an
Opposition Movement for Democratic Change legislators and
independent MP Jonathan Moyo are almost certain to resist Mugabe's agenda.
But in the end Zanu PF can use its two-thirds majority in parliament to
railroad the Bill to re-establish the Senate, abolished in 1989.
Senate has become more urgent after Mudzi constituency where Zanu PF wanted
to impose Nyoni rejected her in favour of former MP Christopher Musa. This
followed the appointment of the area's MP, Ray Kaukonde, as Mashonaland East
Sources said Mugabe wants a Senate before the three months
grace period for Nyoni to remain as minister outside parliament
Sources said the issue was discussed in cabinet on Tuesday
and the Zanu PF politburo on Wednesday. It is expected to be tabled before
the cabinet committee on legislation next week.
The sources said
Mugabe wants parliament to reopen in mid-June instead of June 28 to ensure
the Bill is introduced in parliament early. There will be 40 days needed for
public debate on the Bill after it is presented to parliament for the first
reading. A parliamentary legal committee which scrutinises all proposed
legislation needs 26 days to finish its work. Time is also needed to debate
the "Sithembiso Nyoni" Bill.
THE opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) will
refocus its attention on demanding a new constitution after losing three
elections on the trot to the ruling Zanu PF party.
A decision to
concentrate efforts on a homegrown constitution was agreed at a recent
meeting of the party's executive council in Harare as an alternative to
direct confrontation with government through street protests.
Cross, the party's economic advisor, said this week the MDC had lost faith
in contesting elections under the present constitution whose core provisions
were drafted at Lancaster House in 1979.
The leadership of the MDC is now
consulting others in Zimbabwe and outside on the way forward and resolved to
throw its weight behind a demand that Zanu come to the table for such a
debate with representatives from the whole country.
Morgan Tsvangirai recently met the current Sadc chairman Paul Berenger in
Mauritius seeking his assistance to broker talks with Zanu PF on the
The MDC and civic group demand for a homegrown constitution had
put on the back burner in anticipation that democratic elections
would bring about a new administration more amenable to calls for a new
constitution but this has not happened, Cross says.
"With the failure
of elections in Zimbabwe to yield any kind of real change due to electoral
fraud, the MDC decided it was time to go back to the issue," he said in a
message posted on a website last week.
With its two-thirds parliamentary
majority after the March election, Zanu PF intends to table three major
amendments to the current constitution in the new parliament. Apart from
reintroducing a Senate, Zanu PF plans to entrench the Electoral Commission
in the constitution and amend it to allow government to take over any
"We resolved to reject such piecemeal amendments to the
constitution and instead to call for a national conference to develop a new
constitution which will embrace the ideas and desires of the nation as a
whole," he said.
The MDC says such a conference will make decisions on a
consensual basis and the final product would then give people the legal
framework required to guide the nation back into the regional and global
community of nations.
The NCA said recently it was seeking funds to
convene an all-stakeholders conference and press home demands for a new
NCA spokesperson Jessie Majome said the proposed conference
would chart the means and strategies by which Zimbabweans would l craft
their own democratic constitution.
RESERVE Bank governor Gideon Gono attacked Agriculture
minister Joseph Made and other politicians for misleading the public through
Presenting the monetary policy yesterday Gono said
politicians are misinforming the public resulting in a false sense of
security. He said there was "misrepresentation of facts by some government
ministries with the effect of misdirecting public opinion and sentiment,
which in turn, creates a false sense of security, particularly in the food
and energy sectors of the economy," in apparent reference to
Analysts said the attack was directed at Made and former Social
Welfare minister Paul Mangwana who misled the country into believing that
the country was poised for an all-time bumper harvest of 2,4 million tonnes
of maize when actual production was below 400 000 tonnes.
misleading statements led the country into the current food crisis, which
caught the government unawares.
Gono said politicians should encourage
farmers to run farms like businesses and to repay all monies accessed
through the input scheme.
"Presently some politicians misinform farmers
that input schemes are a result of their individual efforts and as such,
those who supported their campaign programmes may not feel obliged to
During the just ended parliamentary election Zanu PF candidates
were accused of using inputs and maize to sway voters in their favour.
Hunched forward and leaning heavily on a walking stick, the
old woman shuffles to a seat with the help of Archbishop Pius Ncube. She
lowers herself on to a chair and begins to speak, ignoring the microphone
lying on the table infront of her. 'Yes, there is much hunger here,' she
says in Ndebele. 'There is also much conflict between the open palm and the
clenched fist. Us - we joined the open palm. But now the fist people say, if
we don't join them, we'll get no food.' The scene is from a video produced
by the Solidarity Peace Trust, a group of church leaders committed to human
rights and democracy in southern Africa and chaired by Ncube, Catholic
Archbishop of Bulawayo, and Rubin Phillip, Anglican Bishop of Kwa-Zulu
Natal. The video and a report of the same name, Out for the Count: Democracy
in Zimbabwe, which documents fact-finding and observer missions of two
groups of religious and civil society leaders to Zimbabwe for its
parliamentary elections in March, were launched in Johannesburg on 18 May,
two days before Ncube was named the winner of this year's Robert Burns
Humanitarian Award, Scotland's version of the Nobel Peace
While the human rights abuses perpetrated by the Zimbabwean
government before, during and following the elections have been widely
reported, the video provides a compelling degree of authenticity: the voices
and faces of people directly affected by political intimidation, hunger and
oppression. It is one thing to read about human rights violations, it is
another to see and hear victims recount their personal experiences in their
own words. What makes these accounts particularly effective is how they are
juxtaposed with on-camera comments from government officials. This
juxtapositioning of the two sides is often startling. In one scene, for
instance, the Zimbabwean Minister of Finance dismisses questions from a
South African journalist about the politicisation of food distribution and
the severe food shortages in Zimbabwe as 'sheer propaganda'. In subsequent
shots, several ordinary Zimbabweans recount how they are denied maize meal
from the government-alligned Grain Marketing Board - in rural areas, the
sole source of the staple food - because of supposed allegiance to the
opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), the 'open palm' of the old
Several people went on camera to describe how
they were told they would not get food unless they attended rallies of the
ruling Zanu PF before the elections or were denied maize meal after the
elections, accused of having voted for the MDC. Several interviewees echoed
what one man said: 'When the food comes what they say is: "You cannot get
any food unless and until you join the Zanu PF. We are going to sort you. "'
The report complements the video with accounts from members of the South
African ecumenical monitors as well as the fact-finding missions. They each
described wide-spread hunger and fear of political intimidation and
harassment. Reverend Gugu E. Shelembe describes her conversation with a
woman community leader. 'She told me, "Life in Zimbabwe is hell. " (...) She
said, "There is no violence, but a lot of fear is already in us. " She went
on to relate how traditional leaders are being bribed [with] cars and money
to make sure that people in their clans vote for Zanu PF.' Reports such as
these make a mockery of statements made on television, and included in the
video, by leaders of the South African and Southern African Development
Community observer missions that the elections were free and fair, and by
Zimbabwean ministers and President Mugabe himself that allegations of food
shortages are mere propaganda. Ironically, on the day of the release of Out
for the Count, the media reported that Mugabe had tentatively agreed to
accept food aid as long as no political conditions are attached to
One of the members of the ecumenical observer team, Virginia
Zwane, fell victim to harassment by Zanu PF youth members while on a bus to
Harare from Marondera during the elections. The youth militia boarded the
bus and forced passengers to chant Zanu PF slogans. As a South African, Ms
Zwane does not speak Shona and told militia members so when asked why she
wasn't chanting the slogans. She was sexually harassed and pushed by members
of the youth militia who searched her purse for South African Rands and
stole one of her rings. Despite her cries for help, the passengers were too
terrified to assist her. The Solidarity Peace Trust makes a number of
recommendations in its report, including: a repeal of the repressive Access
to Information and Protection of Privacy Act and the Public Order and
Security Act and a shelving of the proposed NGO Bill; an overhaul of the
system of registration of voters and a transparent redrawing of constituency
boundaries; the prosecution of people who have threatened voters or who
threatened to withhold food. The Trust also calls on the Electoral Court to
'hear and rule timeously' on the MDC's challenge of election results in 13
In 30 constituencies discrepancies were found between
the number of votes announced by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) and
the final tallies. In one almost comical scene in the video, the broadcast
of election results on Zimbabwe's state television was included. Just to
give one example: a ZEC official announces the results for Manyame
constituency. The figure for total votes cast - 14,812 - is flashed on the
screen. Above it, the votes won by the Zanu PF-PF candidate: 15,448. And
finally the votes won by the MDC candidate: 8312. The votes won by the two
candidates combined exceeds the official number of votes cast by almost 9000
ballots. It is obvious that the votes do not tally up - and yet the ZEC has
to date not explained these anomalies. The media has continuously reported
on the distribution of food along party lines, on the high levels of fear,
as well as on the repressive laws which have strangled the independent media
and made it impossible for the opposition to stage even peaceful
demonstrations. And yet, to read the accounts of the members of the
fact-finding team and, in particular, to see the interviews with ordinary
people is to understand how deeply rooted the fear of the security forces is
in the average Zimbabwean and how entrenched the politicisation of food
distribution has become. Testimonies, such as this one from Selina Siwela in
the video, make turning away from the dire situation in Zimbabwe impossible.
'They told me I will never be allowed to buy food from the headman's scheme
because I can't get it into my head and I support the MDC. (...) They say
I'll never buy food for the rest of my life. But why can't I buy food? How
will I feed the children? Now my name is on the top of the list. Selina
Siwela - no more food.'