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the real issues, not the symptoms - Interview with Precious Shumba,
Harare Residents' Trust
July 08, 2011
Inside/Out with Precious Shumba
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by Philemon Bulawayo © HRT
is the founder and co-ordinator of the Harare
Residents Trust. The Harare Residents Trust works to empower
citizens and their elected representatives and services providers
towards a meaningful engagement that will improve living standards
in urban communities.
did you establish the Harare Residents Trust?
I have always believed in the principles of social justice, where
the issues of the common person are addressed with the same vigour
as the issues that affect political actors. During my time at ActionAid
International I saw firsthand how communities in Zimbabwe were suffering.
I would interview very, very poor people who have nothing to eat
and are without shelter or access to clean water. I realised that
there is a need for a body of people who have an appreciation of
this kind of suffering, one that is anchored in the communities
and their issues. There is a serious need for an organisation that
is not linked to any political party, an organisation that is led
by people with passion for what they are doing and has its roots
in the people's issues.
say you saw a need for a politically independent organisation that
represents the people. Do you feel then that in terms of the NGO
sector, there are a lot of organisations that are politically aligned
or who drive a political agenda?
The majority of NGOs in Zimbabwe have people in them who have a
desire to earn a living, but without the passion to address the
real issues that affect the citizenry. Ask yourself why we have
a lot of HIV/AIDS organisations, yet we continue to receive reports
of HIV positive people who are unable to access ARVs. Where is all
the money going? You'll find it paying for workshops in hotels.
Ask why do we have several human rights organisations that talk
about social justice, plurality or good governance, but why is it
that we have unending conflict in Zimbabwe if these guys are saying
that they are making a positive impact on the situation? They only
rely on issuing statements. If you ask communities if they know
these people, they will say we only read about them in the papers.
The majority of the NGOs that we have are driven by a political
agenda that has no link to the suffering to the common person. There
is no desire to end poverty or to attack the real problems of society.
These are people who are coming in with the intention of making
a living out of the crisis. If donor organisations like DFID or
USAID have poured millions of dollars into this country to address
these challenges, yet you still find very poor people and our economy
is not growing, where is that money going to? Are they addressing
the real issues or are they playing around with the symptoms hoping
that one day things will suddenly change. I don't believe
in the politics of appeasement where people only address what the
donor wants. I believe that NGOs in Zimbabwe are not independent
from foreign influence.
How is the Harare Residents Trust working to address the
issues that get ignored?
As HRT we have had occasions where we have engaged the service providers,
the policy maker on specific housing, water and issues of disease
and we have scored many successes. Our work speaks for itself. We
are determined to improve the livelihoods of people at household
level. We are trying to instil a certain confidence within individuals
and communities to claim and demand their rights. So that in the
long term, if these people are adequately mentally equipped, they
can face any challenge, they can confront any policy maker. The
challenge in our communities is that most people, and especially
politicians, are trying to capitalise on the differences. Political
parties, whether it is ZANU PF or MDC, politicise almost every aspect
of people's lives. What does that have to do with the road
network or huge bills? They must begin to separate politics from
real issues. This is the disease of our society, where things are
portrayed in a partisan way. The MDC guys are refusing to look to
the real issues, and ZANU PF is in the business of contesting people's
desires. As Harare Residents Trust, we work to build the capacity
of ordinary people to productively engage their service providers
and policy makers. Our membership is drawn from across the political
divide and we have people from opposite sides sitting on the same
committee and agreeing. If that happens across the board you may
find that we are in a way reducing the areas of conflict in our
society and promoting development.
recently that ZANU PF youth disrupted your community meeting. Can
you tell me what happened?
What happened is that the Harare Residents Trust convened its first
ever residents' convention. We mobilised some resources and
managed to bring together 2300 people. We underestimated the threat
of violence, believing that our activities benefit everyone. Unfortunately
for us, the meeting we held was disrupted by ZANU PF youths who
were sent my Mr Chirwa who has become notorious in that community.
They were drunk, came in and locked the gate and started beating
up everyone, including myself and the ZESA representatives, Mr Mandizvidza
and Dr Mvundura. I had to rush in to intervene and prevent one of
the perpetrators, Kuda, who stays in ZANU PF Joshua Nkomo offices
in Majubeg area. I HAD TO LIE THAT Dr Mvundura was coming from Minister
Chombo's office. They had already beaten up a ZESA guy and
there was no other way to stop them. These thugs hit me on the head
and in the face . . . all over. They used fists, batons, booted
feet. We had our guests from Kadoma and Rusape and even elderly
ladies being beaten up. Even ZANU PF people who are our members
were beaten up. We denounce this act of thuggery and believe that
the police must take appropriate action. The police left everyone
exposed. When people went to the police station to report this act,
Inspector Moyo, barred people from entering Stodart police station.
We are aware that as a police party ZANU PF says they denounce violence,
but we are wondering who is sending these people, who is feeding
them and funding their thuggish behaviour and why don't they
do you think motivated Mr Chirwa to do this?
HRT has been working to expose Mr Chirwa and his corruption. Residents
of Joburg lines in Mbare, have evidence that Mr Chirwa is taking
over residents' houses in collaboration with a lady at Remembrance
district offices. The lady facilitates the transfer of property
into the name of a new person. Between them they run an extortion
racket where they coerce residents into paying between $1500 and
$2000 to prevent their property being taken away from them. After
the beatings of HRT members Mr Chirwa was heard boasting that he
had disciplined people. As HRT we have managed to take him to court
and won the return of the property of about eight people. The HRT
is a serious threat to his operations and he feels that if he intimidates
us we will stop. His crimes are being documented.
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