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Operation Murambatsvina - Countrywide evictions of urban poor - Index of articles
exposes flawed state welfare system
Ray Matikinye, The Zimbabwe Independent
August 26, 2005
slum clearance campaign launched in May has blown the lid off a
flawed state welfare programme often kept out of public scrutiny
until disaster strikes.
dre-dged up weaknesses in state welfare programme to deal with the
economic and social dislocations triggered by the campaign that
left an estimated 700 000 people roofless and many more without
sources of livelihood.
that dotted the towns and cities countrywide illustrate the lack
of affordable housing for the urban poor.
of employment opportunities in impoverished rural areas fed the
rural-urban drift despite government having acquired vast tracts
of land that could be redistributed for housing and farming.
Victims of the
government blitz have contrived methods to counter the ever-present
spectre of official desire to intrude on vendors' new trading places.
in what could be her Sunday best, 19-year old Abibi Phiri saunters
out of a bus shelter with a bulging leather satchel slung on her
shoulder. She could easily pass for a traveller who has missed one
of the regular buses plying inter-city routes and trying to catch
the next one.
Only when she
pulls out two plastic bottles of popular beverages or rattles a
packet of potato munchies from her bag does she momentarily blow
her cover. Abibi is one of the scores of confectionery and fruit
vendors who have devised shrewd tricks to avoid detection by police
prowling bus termini between major cities and towns to enforce anti-vending
Abibi says quietly and making sure passengers can lip-read what
she is saying.
by municipal police since the government's onslaught on informal
traders as part of its Operation Murambatsvina has compelled hawkers
along major highways to invent smart ways to camouflage their activities.
carry empty suitcases or stuffed knapsacks to bus stations so as
to pass off as intending travellers. Others wear knee-length jackets
from which they pull various items that they tout in loud whispers
hungry or thirsty," is one of the popular sales lines often recited
by the vendors.
Women put on
facial make-up and men rove around in suave elegance competing for
customers among travellers, cautiously aware that they might be
to haunt and harass any sloppily dressed men and women in regular
swoops at bus termini along the highways until hawkers came up with
novel ideas to avoid arrest.
been snapping on the heels of vendors, hawkers, touts, the blind,
beggars and streets kids who are constantly on the move to avoid
arrest. The blind no longer rattle begging bowls at street corners,
nor sing hymns along pavements to capture public attention and arouse
Last week more
than 300 people were arrested in the capital's city centre for crimes
ranging from vending, touting, loitering to begging and gambling.
City officials try to keep a tight rein on their initial clean-up
campaign's success in their bid to maintain the city precincts pristine.
But all these
efforts are coming undone as the urban poor drift back into the
CBD to eke out a livelihood.
Herbert Murerwa last week said government had noted a widespread
resurgence of rent-seeking trading and parallel market activities
in foreign currency and other basic commodities that the operation
has failed to suppress as people strive to eke out a living.
But the campaign-driven
poverty has jolted government to the stark realities that its social
safety nets like health insurance, retirement pensions and welfare
payments to cushion the elderly, the orphaned and the disabled fall
woefully short of the demands of an economic environment characterised
realised the inadequacy of state social security by reviewing some
benefits provided for under the scheme. Although major reviews concern
public servants and the armed forces, a pension reform programme
he proposed during his mid-term fiscal policy last week concedes
that the state welfare scheme is outdated.
wants to ensure sustainability of state pension payments by converting
to a defined contribution pension scheme to be managed through a
pension fund. It also intends to reduce employee contributions to
health insurance by 20% while limiting the number of beneficiaries
The new system
will operate outside the budget. It has defined benefits, unrelated
to contributions and dependent on the economy's capacity to sustain
has demonstrated that such systems are unsustainable in the long-run,
especially as the number of workers supporting pensioners decline
due to a variety of reasons," Murerwa admitted.
meltdown has thrown thousands out of formal jobs, shrinking the
revenue base for retirement and health insurance schemes.
about-turn regarding these poverty-alleviation innovations is illustrative
of how Zimbabwe's welfare system is sagging precariously under the
weight of widespread poverty.
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