via A repeat of June 2005 – The Zimbabwean 15.10.2015
In early June 2015, the Minister of Local Government, Ignatius Chombo, gave the ‘illegal vendors’ in Zimbabwe’s cities and towns seven days to move their business activities out of the central business district (CBD) to designated areas on the outskirts of the cities.
He also directed local authorities to deal with the ‘illegal settlements’ and ‘to restore order in this area with immediate effect.’
More alarmingly, Brigadier General Anselem Sanyatwe, Provincial Joint Operations Commander (JOC), warned representatives of Vendors Associations that if they did not comply with the Minster’s directive ‘we will deal with you.’ The Zimbabwe Informal Sectors Organisation (ZISO) sought a High Court ruling to stop the evictions. The judge ruled in favour of the ministry, but set down that when the vendors were moved, due process had to be followed and the military should not be engaged in the eviction process.
On July 9, 26 vendors were arrested for stoning municipal police who were ordered to dismantle their tent in Harare’s Central Business District (CBD). By mid-July 42 informal sector traders had been arrested.
In addition 11 houses built on undesignated land in Glen Norah were demolished by the Harare City Council. In an area known as Mokum in Harare South more houses were reportedly destroyed by the Sheriff of the High Court in what the state-controlled Herald described as the Government’s intensified fight ‘against land barons, politicians and cooperative chairpersons illegally settling people on council, private and state land’.
During the month of July, more than 173,000 vendors were displaced from the CBDs of various cities and goods worth $579,239 confiscated by municipal police. The Solidarity Peace Trust points out in its recent report, “Hoping without Hope – Murambatsvina 10 years on”, the similarities between these recent events and the nightmare of June 2005 when 700,000 people were made homeless by the state’s destruction of high density homes and informal businesses.
“There have been reports that government has expressed concern that the mobilisation of the informal sector might provide fertile ground for an urban uprising, similar to those of the Tunisian Revolt and the Arab Spring. This insecurity on the part of the state points to a historical tension between Zanu (PF) and urban movements, and the fact that the ruling party’s conception of national identity has long been based on the land and agrarian citizenship as the sole legitimate signifier of citizenship and belonging,” says the report.
Growth of the informal sector
“Despite the similarities with 2005, there are also clear differences in the way that the state has responded in 2015. Despite opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s fears about “attempts by the regime to mount a second Murambatsvina, a decade after the first “tsunami” as it was then called, the state has adopted a more differentiated approach, involving lower levels of violence and populist appeals to the importance of the informal sector, particularly from Grace Mugabe, combine with a more formal bureaucratic approach to the restoration of order,” says the SPT.
“There are a number of reasons for this. Firstly, the informal sector has grown dramatically since the Structural Adjustment period of the 1990s, expanding even further since 2005. This has made it much more risky for the state to launch a new OM style attack on the sector with the same form of political vulgarity and crude coercion that characterised its response in 2005.”