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Operation Murambatsvina - Countrywide evictions of urban poor - Index of articles
ZIMBABWE: Still waiting for a place to call home
August 25, 2005
HARARE - Grubby-faced
children play on a patch of ground beside a towering plastic water container
marked "UNICEF", one of the few humanitarian organisations helping hundreds
of displaced families at Hopely Farm as they wait for the government to
deliver on promised plots of land.
Each gust of wind whisks up the fine dust, which gets into mouths and
eyes. The 967 families here have lived in the open for more than a month,
with little to protect themselves against the elements. Some have built
knee-high shelters, others have tried to lash plastic sheeting together
to build flimsy shacks.
"Government appears to have forgotten us. Without UNICEF [UN Children's
Fund] assistance we don't know how we could have coped," said Moses Misheck,
who tries to make a little money by mending shoes.
The displaced at Hopely are among the poorest of Zimbabweans. They had
occupied illegal shanties around the capital, Harare, which were torn
down by the authorities in a campaign of urban renewal, begun on 19 May,
that left more than 700,000 people homeless.
Most of those at Hopely came from the settlement of Porta Farm or the
transit centre at Caledonia Farm, created to cope with displaced people
who failed to move back to their rural areas when the government launched
its much-criticised cleanup campaign, known as Operation Murambatsvina
('Drive out Dirt').
They arrived in Hopely with next to nothing: UNICEF provides water and
sanitation and the International Office for Migration distributes rations
from the World Food Programme.
On the other side of the farm, earth-moving equipment lies idle after
carving out service roads for the proposed housing scheme, of which 600
plots are ready for allocation. It is not clear how the recipients will
be selected, whether the plots will be distributed under a rent-to-buy
arrangement or not, and how much the plots will cost the unemployed families.
Despite toilets and water provided by UNICEF, conditions at Hopely are
"We fear for the spread of disease at this place," said Virginia Tsauro,
a 39-year-old pregnant woman with four other children. "What crime have
we committed that we are treated like this? We were assured of being allocated
proper housing when government evicted us from Porta Farm."
Her children last went to school while at Porta Farm; there are no education
facilities at Hopely.
Luke Anderson says he hopes the government will keep its housing promise,
but is concerned. "We hear those who are not formally employed will have
to make way for soldiers and policemen, but that has not been officially
communicated to us."
He was worried that other evictees, who have yet to be allocated stands,
might spoil things for the rest.
"There are people here clamouring for stands - but what they are doing
is inviting their relatives, who had relocated to their rural homes, and
accommodating them here so that they are allocated stands," he said.
Winfrida Svosve insisted that households not yet allocated plots have
vowed to stay put. "If they say we should go back where we came from,
then we will have to go back to Porta Farm where life was more bearable."
She said the government had warned residents not on an official list to
vacate the camp before the end of the week. "Government officials notified
us that police and soldiers will beat us up if we do not move. We do not
fear anything, we even want them to kill us."
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