Back to Index
This article participates on the following special index pages:
Operation Murambatsvina - Countrywide evictions of urban poor - Index of articles
report on operation "Murambatsvina"
Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum
97 version (190KB)
PDF version (309KB)
If you do not have the free Acrobat reader
on your computer, download it from the Adobe website by clicking
Murambatsvina" and "Operation Restore Order"
are the code names used by the police for a massive operation that
began in Zimbabwe towards the end of May. This nationwide campaign,
which has been conducted in the cities and towns, in peri-urban
areas, and on farms settled after land invasions, has led to the
destruction of many thousands of houses and means of shelter, trading
stalls and markets. Whatever the reasons behind this, none of which
can be morally justified, this campaign has created a huge humanitarian
disaster causing enormous hardship and suffering. Within the space
of a few weeks, Operation Murambatsvina has produced a massive
internal refugee population who are homeless and without the means
to earn a living.
its mismanagement of the economy in pursuit of political ends, the
Mugabe Government has created mass unemployment. As formal sector
unemployment has risen, more and more people had to move into the
informal trading sector to earn some sort of livelihood. Before
Operation Murambatsvina, vast numbers of people were earning
a living in the informal economic sector. Previously the Government
encouraged the growth of the informal sector and allowed informal
traders and vendors to carry out their activities. The authorities
largely turned a blind eye to vendors and traders operating in violation
of drastic housing shortages, hundreds of thousands of people were
occupying shanty and makeshift dwellings in urban areas. Many more
were occupying houses erected by housing co-operatives on land occupied
during the land invasions. Many of these housing co-operatives were
registered, and senior government officials had often encouraged
the establishment of these informal settlements or had given the
approval to their activities. The authorities had previously done
little to enforce the building by-laws in relation to these informal
in a military style operation, often conducted in the early hours
of the morning, police officers dressed up in riot kit and armed
with automatic firearms, loaded with live ammunition, descended
without warning on poor urban people in high-density suburbs, in
and around towns and cities, all over Zimbabwe. The army was also
deployed in a show of force to deter people from putting up resistance
to the police action. The police bulldozed, smashed, and burned
structures housing many thousands of poor urban dwellers. Among
those whose buildings were destroyed were those who had proper plans
for their buildings and those who had entered into valid leases
to occupy those premises. The owners of the structures, and even
bystanders in numerous instances were also press-ganged into assisting
in breaking down these structures. The destruction of structures
that housed thousands of people was done without providing any alternate
accommodation whatsoever, although after all the destruction, the
Government announced plans to build and rebuild housing.
estimates put the number of people now displaced at well over a
million. The forced displacement of thousands of families has meant
that many children of these families are no longer attending school.
Amongst those that have been made homeless in the blitz are babies
and young children, orphans, women and women-headed households,
elderly people, disabled people, people with HIV and other sick
people. The dislocation of these people has severely disrupted treatment
and care programmes for people with HIV, and these persons will
be exceptionally vulnerable as a result.
police also destroyed large numbers of vending stalls and markets
and drove away vendors from sites all around the towns from which
they had been operating. Quite a number of vendors were unfairly
affected as they held valid vending licenses. During these operations
the police confiscated quantities of goods. Allegations were made
that some of this property was misappropriated by police officers.
operation was conducted in a brutal fashion. The police beat people
who offered resistance to what they were doing, or did not comply
quickly enough with orders to remove property from inside their
structures or to assist in dismantling these structures. Property
worth millions of dollars was destroyed, in many cases this constituting
an investment of the life savings of families. During this operation,
many people were arrested on a variety of charges.
number of non-governmental organisations, wishing to assist people
thrown out of their homes, have been prevented from doing so.
wrecking of the informal economic sector will have very detrimental
economic effects at a time that the economy is already in a most
parlous state. Apart from drastically increasing unemployment, the
campaign will have a very detrimental knock-on effect upon the formal
City Council, various Government Ministers, and Government officials
have advanced a whole miscellany of reasons for this operation.
In general, the official explanations have been confusing, and occasionally
at variance with each other.
timing and magnitude of the ‘clean-up’ operation has led to much
speculation as to whether there are in actuality other reasons than
those officially proclaimed. For instance, some have argued that
the campaign is to punish urban people for voting for the opposition.
Others say that it is a pre-emptive strike against the urban poor
to prevent unrest in the towns by driving people away into the countryside.
There are problems with each of these speculations. A more comprehensive
theory incorporates most of the fragmentary theories, and posits
the campaign as a strategy to solve a related set of political problems
for the government.
court cases have been brought to challenge the legality of the campaign
and more are in the pipeline. In one action, the court dismissed
the action on a questionable basis, but the presiding judge did
make explicit reference to the adverse humanitarian consequences.
Murambatsvina violates a whole range of international human
rights norms as well as fundamental rights provisions in the Constitution
the reasons for it, Operation Murambatsvina constitutes a
widespread and systematic attack on a poor and defenceless civilian
population. It has laid to ruins the homes and businesses of hundreds
of thousands of people. Not without justification, have people likened
the devastation wreaked by the government to that of a tsunami.
However, unlike a tsunami, the targets of Operation Murambatsvina
have been selective and it is this selectivity which has led to
the speculation that the true motives behind it are political.
the Human Rights Forum calls upon the Government to take a number
of immediate steps:
- To bring
an immediate halt to all forced evictions until such time as
a planned and humane relocation can take place;
- To end
the forced relocation of persons to the rural areas;
- to allow
immediate and unrestricted access by churches and non-governmental
organizations to affected persons so that humanitarian assistance
may be given to those affected;
- To allow
a full and independent audit of the consequences of the forced
- To investigate
all allegations of unlawful deprivation of property and to prosecute
all alleged offenders.
- To make
full restitution of all property illegally confiscated.
- To provide
full compensation to all persons whose property was illegally
damaged or destroyed.
Visit the Zimbabwe
Human Rights NGO Forum fact
Please credit www.kubatana.net if you make use of material from this website.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License unless stated otherwise.