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This article participates on the following special index pages:

  • Operation Murambatsvina - Countrywide evictions of urban poor - Index of articles

  • "Crime of poverty":Murambatsvina Part II
    Solidarity Peace Trust
    October 19, 2005

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    Executive summary

    1. Introduction
    The July UN report on the demolitions in Zimbabwe has become the definitive report on events between May and the end of June 2005. Other reports have covered in detail urban and peri-urban aspects of OM. Political analysis, assessment of the judiciary, and quantification of those affected are variously covered by other human rights reports released since July.

    The current report is the first to systematically follow more than one hundred of the displaced into the rural contexts in which they now find themselves. This report focuses on events since the end of July in Matabeleland, notably Bulawayo and Victoria Falls.

    Two issues of humanitarian relevance are explored in the report:

    • whether "Operation Garikai /Hlalane Kuhle" will really offer relief to those displaced
    • will humanitarian aid from other sources, including government, arrive any time soon?
    • We provide information on current whereabouts of 1,400 IDPs.
    • We summarise a number of cases from the 150 plus interviews conducted by the authors since July, to give a cross section of current situations of IDPs.
    • We present findings from structured interviews with 100 IDPs.
    Zimbabwe remains a nation on the move. Families interviewed have moved as many as seven times in the last few months and are still unsettled. Socio-economic conditions continue to deteriorate and people are still sliding from one situation to another – socially, economically, geographically and in terms of access to basic resources – they slide ever downwards.

    2. "Operation Murambatsvina": how many were affected?
    The UN report estimated 700,000 were directly affected, based on government’s own figures for structures destroyed. Another 2,4 million were indirectly affected. The government continues to contest these figures and to maintain that there is no humanitarian crisis. One survey found only 6% of those affected had received any help in the first two months of demolitions. NGOs still have no clear idea of actual numbers, but it is hard to find a family not somehow affected by loss of housing or income within their community or family.

    3. "Operation Garikai/Hlalani Kuhle" – a revolutionary programme or mere window dressing?
    Minister Stan Mudenge in late July challenged people to see and judge for themselves the successes of OG/HK - "Operation Live Well"; the authors take up this challenge. 25,000 houses were supposed to be built nationwide by the end of August. In July the government promised Z$ 3 trillion for the rebuilding programme, which they claim was the real intention behind the demolitions. This was downwardly revised to 1 trillion, and only 300 billion has actually been financed during 2005. This amount has been drastically undermined by rampant inflation since July: in real terms less than 5% of the Z$ 3 trillion promised has materialised.

    Housing needs prior to OM
    In Bulawayo, the housing lists prior to OM stood at 70,000 names. This has risen to 80,000 since the demolitions resulted in the loss of over 10,000 structures. Around 350,000 people are needing housing – 30% of Bulawayo’s population. Inter Ministerial Committees headed by the army have taken over many city council roles, including building and allocating of houses.

    Promises – and the reality
    Bulawayo was repeatedly promised 1,003 houses and 41,000 stands by the end of August. At first 46, and then 10 vendors’ stalls were promised. By two weeks after the 31 August deadline, fewer than 200 houses were roofed, but not serviced. 532 stands were allocated and 4 vendors’ stands were partially constructed. Targets were dismally failed countrywide, and in some areas building was at a complete standstill. By mid October, 280 houses had been constructed in Bulawayo, but occupation of these is scheduled only for 2006. In any case, these houses, while welcome, will hardly dent the housing waiting lists.

    Who will get the houses?
    There is no answer to this question yet in Bulawayo, as by mid October, no houses had been allocated. The city council has given comprehensive long (80,000) and short lists to the IMC, as they have total control over who gets houses under OG/HK. The short list included those who have been on housing lists for years and who have been displaced under OM, as well as civil servants displaced under OM. The city council is clear that whoever gets the houses, will have to pay rates and water. This rules out many victims of OM, who now live in total poverty.

    The status of the informal sector
    An estimated 90,000 vendors have been affected by OM: 30,000 were arrested in May and June, and their stands razed. In Bulawayo, a high court decision ruled that the arrests and seizure of goods was illegal; arrests nonetheless continue to date. Almost no vendors’ stands have been built anywhere so far. "Operation Tsvairai", begun in September, has enforced a policy of continued arrests countrywide of vendors, who have now been five months without regular income, in spite of tens of thousands countrywide being licensed by their local city councils.

    OG/HK is window dressing. The authors believe that it is the government’s unconvincing alibi in the event of their being prosecuted for crimes against humanity; it maintains a façade for the theory that the demolitions reflected a desire, however misguided, to help the poor and honour the government’s "responsibility to protect".

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