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  • Operation Murambatsvina - Countrywide evictions of urban poor - Index of articles

  • Five months on, blitz victims still homeless
    Grace Kombora, The Zimbabwe Independent
    October 28, 2005

    CRAWLING out of her makeshift plastic shack at Tsiga grounds in Mbare, ashen-faced Fungai Maungana can still not come to terms with the life she has been living since May. Her face has the look of despair and confusion.

    "This is not a life. How can I live like a dog?" Maungana, who is widowed, asked.

    She used to stay in Jo'burg Lines in the suburb and was evicted during the internationally condemned Operation Murambatsvina.

    Living with her two orphaned grandchildren, Maungana cannot make ends meet. Her grandchildren have since stopped going to school.

    The people at Tsiga grounds accuse government of failing to offer them alternative accommodation despite official claims that Operation Murambatsvina was aimed at giving the former slum dwellers decent houses.

    "Since we came here government has not given us accommodation and we do not know what we are going to do," Maungana said.

    Five months after the launch of Operation Murambatsvina, victims of the slum demolition programme continue to endure the agony of the ill-conceived exercise.

    Rotting garbage and heaps of uncollected rubble are now part of the Tsiga landscape. Residents are constantly reminded of how government ruined their lives when it destroyed homes and informal business kiosks in a campaign which the United Nations said cast at least 700 000 people onto the streets without shelter, food or income.

    People living in makeshift homes at Tsiga grounds and Ground No 5 in Mbare can still feel the pinch of the military-style operation.

    A recent report in the Herald newspaper revealed that the operation was launched as a preemptive strike allegedly to stop a rebellion by poor urban dwellers.

    The people at Tsiga are living under inhuman conditions without potable water or toilets. Their shacks are less than a metre high, one has to crawl in and out.

    Most of the residents have to buy water at $20 000 per bucket from nearby houses and survive on donations from church organisations and other well-wishers. They bath and do their laundry in the Mukuvisi River.

    Surrounded by heaps of rubbish from Operation Murambatsvina, there are clear dangers of a serious health risk.

    After their shanty homes and backyard cottages were razed in the controversial military-style operation, residents of Harare are still battling to come to terms with the amount of rubble left behind. There was an announcement last week that the rubble was being removed. People are still waiting.

    The United Nations, Western governments and local and international human rights groups condemned the clean-up exercise as a gross violation of poor people's rights.

    The most difficult time, according to Maungana, is the approaching rainy season.

    "We are definitely going to be soaked by the rains as we do not have anywhere to go," she said.

    Maungana and her colleagues condemned the slow-moving Operation Garikai which she however said was unlikely to benefit Murambatsvina victims.

    "We thought we were going to benefit from Operation Garikai, but unfortunately the beneficiaries are those who already have homes elsewhere," she said.

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