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Operation Murambatsvina - Countrywide evictions of urban poor - Index of articles
hope yet for the homeless
June 03, 2010
In Hopley Farm, a resettlement
camp about 10km south of Zimbabwe's capital, Harare, Simon Dhewa's
chicken coup has been converted into a bedroom for his three daughters,
the eldest of which also uses it as a venue for her commercial sex
The 20-year-old is the
sole bread winner for her 45-year-old widowed father, her two sisters
and two brothers. The residents of Hopley Farm have nicknamed her
Her predicament can be
traced back to 2005, when President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF government
Murambatsvina (Drive out Filth), and the family dwelling, along
with her father's shoe repair business, was among the tens of thousands
of urban structures that were demolished.
"I never imagined
I would get into prostitution, and I never thought I would come
to an extent whereby I would expose my sisters [aged 15 and 17]
to this kind of life, but circumstances have forced me into this
and I am now used to it," she told IRIN.
"My younger sisters
dropped out of school because Father could not afford the fees,
and even though I wish the best in life for them, they might end
up as sex workers like me so as to survive," she said.
Dhewa is aware of his
daughter's sex work but told IRIN: "What can I do about it?
I am not employed and she buys food for me. This is the kind of
situation the government has put us into, and it is sad that there
is nothing our political leaders are doing to give us decent accommodation."
An estimated 700,000
people were made homeless by Operation Murambatsvina; after international
condemnation, Mugabe's government launched Operation Garikai (Have
Dhewa's nephew, Timothy
Mangena, 33, a Harare shop assistant, his wife and two children,
who were made homeless by the operation that government termed "an
urban clean-up", became beneficiaries of the new housing scheme.
his family, along with several thousand others, were resettled at
Whitecliff, about 15km west of Harare, one of the scores of settlements
set up by Operation Garikai, where they were allocated two-roomed
matchbox brick houses without toilets, running water or sewerage.
"My family had become
accustomed to the pathetic conditions under which we lived but,
unfortunately, I was evicted from the house by ZANU-PF militia in
2008 - ahead of the June presidential elections - who accused me
of supporting the opposition [Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)]"
Mangena told IRIN.
There was widespread
election violence in 2008, in which Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF lost
its parliamentary majority for the first time since independence
from Britain in 1980, and MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai narrowly
missed being voted in as president after withdrawing from the run-off
poll in protest of political violence.
"I have moved from
one suburb to another, where landlords have evicted me for failure
to pay rent and now it seems I am back where I was in 2008, as a
squatter," Mangena said. Unable to find a place to stay, he
moved to Hopley Farm. His wife left him and took their children.
"My uncle [Dhewa]
has given me temporary shelter in his shack at Hopley, and even
though there are too many people at his house, I don't have a choice,"
he said. "It is very difficult to imagine that poor people
like me will ever own a house."
John Robertson, a Harare-based
economic consultant told IRIN: "There is a lot of land available
to build good accommodation, and houses are being set up by private
developers every day. Unfortunately, the poor cannot access these,
as they do not have the money and are struggling to put bread on
the table. Those that want to build on their own cannot borrow from
banks, which have little to lend."
A unity government was
formed in February 2009, but the fragile alliance between Mugabe's
ruling ZANU-PF and two factions of the MDC has yet to improve the
material conditions of most Zimbabweans.
"Worse still, the
coalition government has shown little evidence of being committed
to providing acceptable shelter to the poor. This could be because
it is preoccupied with mending the economy, and there is too much
discord in the government of national unity," Robertson said.
Fidelis Mhashu, the national
housing minister, told IRIN that "The housing problem is a
crisis that has been there for a long time, and there is no way
the government of national unity can make it disappear overnight;
it will take time."
He said the government
had resolved to hand over the Garikai housing schemes to local authorities
so that they could improve them and offer better accommodation to
beneficiaries. "We fully support housing cooperatives' efforts
to provide affordable accommodation to the poor, even though I am
aware that some of them have not made much headway."
The Combined Harare Residents
Association announced recently that more than 200 housing cooperatives
were waiting to be short-listed to get land for residential settlement.
The national housing
backlog is estimated at more than one million, with the Harare city
council saying the capital alone had more than 500,000 families
on the waiting list.
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