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Harare Council to begin “cleanup campaign” next week
Tererai Karimakwenda, SW Radio Africa
November 01, 2013

Harare residents have expressed deep concern at a so-called “cleanup campaign” announced by the City Council on Thursday, fearing many people will be displaced and thousands will lose their livelihood.

According to The Daily News newspaper, Harare town clerk Tendai Mahachi told reporters at Town House that a clean-up operation will begin November 4th in ward 3 Mbare, targeting “not only the filth and litter contaminating the area”, but also “illegal structures”.

The statement immediately evoked memories of the disastrous “Operation Murambatsvina” that displaced nearly one million people in 2005, judging from comments posted online by Zimbabweans.

Mahachi is quoted as saying: “We will be cleaning up illegal structures so where ever we go in terms of wards in Harare, we will also be doing the same thing because these structures make our city untidy.”

But a former MDC-T legislator for the area said this pending “cleanup” is not about tidiness or prevention of disease, but simply Zanu-PF getting rid of people that they allowed to build there in the period leading to elections, in order to boost the party’s support base in the constituency.

Piniel Denga, former MDC-T MP for Mbare, told SW Radio Africa that when he won that seat in 2008, he saw Zanu-PF remove people to whom they had allocated illegal stands ahead of that election because they were no longer needed. They allocated stands again ahead of this year’s poll to boost support in the area.

“I have seen so many shacks and corner shops being constructed and allocated to Zanu-PF supporters just for them to build up towards the 2013 elections. Now I hear they want to clean garbage and remove illegal structures. It’s a political gimmick because they used the people. Now the elections are over,” Denga said.

Asked why people still allow themselves to be used by Zanu-PF in a political game that has been exposed with every election, Denga said: “Zimbabweans are very patient and at times very desperate so they will rush for any piece of land because they are hungry for space to lay their head down.”

SW Radio Africa’s correspondent Simon Muchemwa also explained that the “chaotic allocation of land was a tactical move by Zanu-PF ahead of elections.”

“There were people receiving land from Zanu-PF before elections, and this was done to increase voting numbers. In Mount Pleasant, Hatcliffe and Harare South for example, the voting patterns in the elections were made possible by the allocation of stands,” Muchemwa reported.

Meanwhile, the Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo, who himself has been investigated and accused of involvement in illegal land deals around Harare, is reported to have supported the so-called cleanup.

According to the Daily News, Chombo warned “those who build their structures on land that was illegally acquired” to “remove them before the authorities demolish the structures”.

“So deplorable is the state of affairs in Chitungwiza municipal area and Seke communal lands, to the extent that residential stands are being arbitrarily and illegally parcelled out everywhere including in wetlands, along power lines, cemeteries, pastures and land zoned out for other uses,” Chombo reportedly said.

That statement may signal the extension of this cleanup campaign to areas outside Harare, fuelling fears of yet another Murambatsvina.

SW Radio Africa is Zimbabwe's Independent Voice and broadcasts on Short Wave 4880 KHz in the 60m band.

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