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Operation Murambatsvina - Countrywide evictions of urban poor - Index of articles
''living well'' also a disaster
Inter Press Service (IPS)
March 29, 2007
View the Operation
29 (IPS) - ''It is appalling how our government has simply discarded
its own people,'' exclaims civic activist Max Mkandla. He is referring
to the ruling ZANU-PF's Operation Murambatsvina (''drive out filth'')
and its follow-up, Operation Garikai (''living well'').
have been battling to survive since the government's infamous Operation
Murambatsvina destroyed homes and stalls almost two years ago in
May 2005. About 700,000 traders were chased from urban areas known
to support the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.
happened shortly after the controversial parliamentary elections
of that year in which the ruling ZANU-PF drew two-thirds of the
electoral support amid indications of vote rigging. The ''operation''
aggravated the economic meltdown in Zimbabwe for ordinary residents.
still constantly subjected to police harassment. The police conduct
sporadic raids and confiscate merchandise. Traders are forced to
pay fines for trading ''illegally''.
They have had
to devise innovative plans to avoid police interference. Some display
only a small sample of goods with the rest hidden in a safe place.
Others sell fruit, clothing and basic commodities such as soap and
cooking oil from car boots. But sometimes their luck runs out.
''We have to
do something to earn a living, even if it is risky. Hide and seek
with the police is the name of the game. Sometimes you win and sometimes
you lose. It all depends on the moods of the police officers,''
says Maxwell Tumbare, an informal trader in Zimbabwe's capital of
Little has come
of the government's Operation Garikai which was launched to address
the criticism by United Nations Special Envoy Anna Tibaijuka about
Operation Murambatsvina. Her report confirmed that over 2.4 million
Zimbabweans' livelihoods were detrimentally affected by Operation
is on record as saying that Garikai as a ''follow-up programme''
to Murambatsvina was to be completed by August 2005.
was to involve the construction of housing units and ''legitimate''
stalls and flea markets.
markets little has happened apart from a centre for small and medium
enterprises built in Harare's Glen View suburb. The centre accommodates
carpenters and metalworkers. ''We are now working from here but
the place is too small for our operations,'' Isaac Makanga, a carpenter,
arrested at foundation level is testimony to an ambitious project
that never was. In Chiredzi in the south eastern part of the country
traders are selling their goods wherever they can. It is the same
story in other provinces.
embarked on an unplanned project and is now failing to deliver because
of a combination of factors, especially inflation and corruption,''
explains Heneri Dzinotyiwei, a professor in political science at
environment strangled Operation Garikai as operational costs increased
by the day. Inflation is currently at 1,729 percent. Most contractors
and suppliers withdrew their services after the government failed
to honour its financial obligations.
housing projects around the country has been abandoned after the
government rushed into construction without consultation with local
authorities. Those that have been completed are without proper sanitation
At one such
project in Chiredzi, inhabitants use a common lavatory at a nearby
school while in provinces like Matebeleland South and Mashonaland
West people use the bush.
''We have no
choice but to live here. It is better than staying in open air,''
Solomon Mhere from the Chiredzi project laments.
houses have been criticised because of their size. ''Match boxes''
is the term commonly used to describe them. A typical bedroom cannot
accommodate a double bed, let alone a wardrobe or other furniture.
Mkandla describes the living conditions as ''inhumane. The houses
are not fit for human habitation''.
the United Nations' special envoy on humanitarian issues, became
the government's enemy overnight after condemning Garikai houses
at Whitecliff farm on the outskirts of Harare. Egeland described
the situation as ''puzzling'' and ''disastrous'' during his follow-up
visit in December 2005.
government circles has contributed to the fiasco. Government officials
have been accused of milking the national treasury by inflating
supplier quotations and taking the extra cash. Suppliers oblige
as long they are guaranteed of being awarded tenders.
''There is no
accountability by our government. Therefore it is unsurprising that
all these cases pass unnoticed,'' explains Dzinotyiwei.
went on to defy logic when it spurned the assistance offered by
the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). ''People are suffering
because of political expedience,'' says Itai Zimunya, programmes
officer with the Crisis
In Zimbabwe Coalition.
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