Independent Media Centre Ireland

Zimbabwe reading material. "Operation Murambatsvina (No Tolerance to Filth)"

category international | housing | other press author Friday June 10, 2005 13:48author by C&P reading material

"when it comes to Zim, the kettle always calls the Pot black"

2nd day of a strike against Mugabe in Zimbabwe sees people up north claim he's finally gone bonkers.

*finally*? Oh dear, Mugabe has been around as long as any other 80+year old leader, he's up there with paisley and fraga. you can't teach old dogs new tricks & generally everyone has their own nichname for them. You could learn a lot by comparing and contrasting them, their pals and foes indeed.

Mugabe has knocked down houses all over the shop, you know that, but his reasons are very very Western capitalist, he's combatting the "informal sector", these people were fueling the black market, living in non-council approved houses, you'd never get that in ireland...

(financial gazette Harare)
DEPOSED war veterans leader Jabulani Sibanda this week lambasted the government over its violent clean-up campaign, warning that it faced the wrath of "people power" as tension mounted ahead of today's planned mass action.

Sibanda, who has previously clashed with senior ZANU PF officials over his suspension from the party and the emotive issue of multiple farm ownership, said the war veterans - who, until recently, were at the forefront of the ZANU PF government's political actions - "stand ready to defend the rights of the people".

His outburst comes as Zimbabweans, mainly urbanites who have borne the brunt of the so-called clean-up campaign which has destroyed homes and informal businesses and rendered millions destitute, brace for a bruising encounter with security forces in countrywide mass action expected to start today.

Zimbabwean security forces have said they are prepared to quash any form of protest by the people against the widely condemned and high-handed "Operation Restore Order".

Despite threats to mercilessly thwart any attempts to stage a mass uprising, the main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), and civic organisations have stood firm, saying the countrywide demonstrations will go ahead as planned.

War veterans have, since 2000, been a key element in ZANU PF's oft-violent political strategy. They masterminded the violent seizure of white-owned farms at the advent of the chaotic land redistribution programme.

They have, however, been miffed by the brutality which has been visited on their numerous illegal housing cooperatives by the government.

Some war veterans who had occupied plots at farms surrounding Harare such as Tongogara resettlement and White Cliff have now been booted out.

Sibanda attacked what he described as "government ineptitude in crafting policies. They come up with policies today and tomorrow they are reversed," he fumed.

He said the government had this time "ignited a bonfire, which is going to backfire".

"Once government starts valuating itself against the strength of its army, its police and its airpower, then there is something wrong. We cannot have a situation where government strength is measured by the strength of its forces as opposed to support from the masses," Sibanda said.

"People are like a coiled spring: if you suppress it, it comes together and becomes dangerous. They might not rise today, but rise they shall," the firebrand war veteran said. "War veterans are prepared to defend the revolution, whether within ZANU PF or outside, and the revolution is the will of the people, not a few government officials," he added.


The Destruction of the Informal Sector
by Eddie Cross
Bulawayo, 1st June 2005

In the past week the government of Zimbabwe has taken steps to destroy much of what has become known throughout Africa as the informal sector. This consists of about 3 million small-scale business enterprises - none of whom are registered or pay direct taxes but which play a major part in the nations economy.

There are 800 000 small scale peasant farmers and their families, but it is in the cities where this kind of economic activity has thrived as the formal sector has crashed. The activities take on many forms - cross border traders who take orders from urban business and then find the foreign exchange and go to South Africa or Botswana to source the products required. I estimated once that about 5000 traders crossed the borders every day doing anything up to 20 per cent of all imports.

Vegetable and fruit sellers are found almost everywhere - a vendor selling just a few tomatoes every day can make as much as a worker in industry.
Small scale industry goes on where ever there is a vacant lot and takes on all sorts of tasks and produce products such as wire netting, door frames, windows, furniture. The motor industry and public transport is another area of informal sector business - hundreds of small vans operate in urban areas and provide a very efficient form of local transport, which is used by millions every day.

In the housing sector the role of the informal economy is just as ubiquitous - with a back log in housing running to over 1 million units on official lists and only 1,4 million housing units actually on the ground, over 40 per cent of the urban population is thought to be technically homeless - they live in crowded tenements and as lodgers - often living as a whole family in a single room. Desperate for any sort of privacy and family life many take to constructing shacks in other peoples yards or on vacant ground in peri urban and township areas.

This means that some where about 2,5 million people live in makeshift urban accommodation without adequate sanitation or clean water. They include hundreds of thousands of children. Many brought to the towns because the education and health services are so much better than they are in the rural areas, or their parents have died from Aids or a related illness and they are living with the extended family.

So we have a massive structure of informal sector activities - almost eclipsing the formal sector that was so dominant in 1980. I estimate that informal business may generate as much as half our GDP, handle as much as 40 per cent of all foreign exchange and 20 per cent of our exports and imports.
They support 3,4 million urban people and 4 million rural people. They provide transport for the great majority and meet the basic housing requirements of at least 8 million people. They pay taxes through the indirect systems of taxation that exist (VAT and others) and provide a huge market for the formal sector as well as income support for the majority.

Despite the complete failure of the Zanu regime to maintain the formal sector - with GDP declining nearly 50 per cent in 7 years, exports down by half and employment by over 40 per cent - the State has now decided to decimate the one thing that is working - the informal sector.

If I had not seen it myself I could not have believed that so stupid and heartless a thing could be carried out. On Thursday last week I watched armed police destroy the markets in Beitbridge - the border town with South Africa. I saw them burn food, steal groceries and smash furniture.
Afterwards one street kid said to me as I walked past - "this is cyclone Gono!" referring to the governor of the Reserve Bank who seemed to have triggered this exercise in an effort to gain control of informal money markets. Others just sat stunned - not quite appreciating that the State had just robbed them of virtually everything they owned.

We saw evidence of the cyclone all the way to Harare and then over the weekend we saw the Capital City go up in flames. The markets at Magaba, Mbare all destroyed and billions of dollars worth of goods taken or destroyed. My daughter witnessed a team on the street cutting a vendors hot dog stand loose and then loading it onto a truck - she remonstrated with them and they threatened to arrest her. Some Z$2 billion in cash stolen from vendors by the Police.

All over the City homes were destroyed, goods stolen or destroyed and people threatened with loaded weapons and live ammunition. They were also threatened with tear gas supplied by Israel that stuns its victims. Officers in charge of this mindless destruction said that they had orders to shoot anyone resisting. In one area I visited the majority of the squatters had voted Zanu PF in the recent election, believing that in doing so they were protecting themselves from eviction because the land they occupied was not theirs - they sat stunned by events surrounded by burnt out wrecks of their homes and crying children who had spent the night out in the cold.

The question is why are they doing this - punishment is one reason given by police to those they were hurting, punishment for voting MDC in the cities.
But I think there is another reason and this is that Mugabe - now in the final stages of his rule, has decided - like Stalin in the 30's and Pol Pot in the 60's and the Afrikaner administration in South Africa, that it is time to move some people out of the cities and back to the rural areas. This is a mass eviction of unwanted urban poor being forced to go "back to their rural homes" and "grow food!"

In the cities they are a threat - restless, independent and proving a powerful support base for opposition politics. In the rural areas they can be controlled and perhaps forced to grow food where none is being grown at present. Will they get away with it - probably, just like Stalin and Pol Pot and the apartheid regime. But only for a while, eventually the tide will turn and when it does, those who were the oppressors will themselves become the victims of their own evil acts.

To back up this thesis that strange new Ministry called the Ministry of Rural Housing and Social Amenities with Munangagawa in charge has been given a massive budget from nowhere to operate with. This suggests that they really are trying to force a relocation of population. In the past 5 years, rural populations have been declining - the math's suggest by as much as 10 per cent per annum. This coupled with the impact of Aids has meant that these areas can no longer even feed themselves. Mugabe is trying to reverse this situation.

When you go to bed tonight - just think of those tens of thousands of poor, hungry, destitute people and their children who will sleep in the open in near zero temperatures, without hope or a future. Mugabe is goading the population to revolt - then he can declare a state of emergency and remove what is left of our civil liberties and rights.


Evictees' Meekness Stuns World
Rangarirai Mberi

A VINTAGE portable vinyl player and a few old records provided some light amusement on Mbare's Fourth Avenue last Tuesday, its defiant shrieking subdued by the crackle of fires, wailing infants and the roar of a loaded police truck making yet another patrol round.

Residents of this street are the latest show of the great Zimbabwe mystery; police have laid waste to their homes and families have spent four nights out on the street, but yet here they are, joking and laughing amid the destruction.

A truck approaches, loaded with policemen menacingly drumming their batons against the side of the truck, obviously spoiling for a fight. But these displaced residents take no notice, showing no hostility towards the police.

The police truck passes with its young occupants pointing their batons at a group of youths and ordering them to disperse. There is no resistance.

Picking through the rubble of their destroyed homes and facing yet more nights in the cold, the Mbare residents on this street confined their conversations to idle banter, even joking about their grave plight.

There is no political talk. Instead, there are tall tales about one man writing to his rural kin to send a scotchcart to take him "home", jokes about confiscated marijuana and one sadistic yarn about a bed-ridden man who was too ill to get up when his wooden hovel collapsed around him.

One group is exchanging hearty tales about what it was they thought of salvaging first from their homes when the police came.

"It was my gramophone," one elderly man, evidently sceptical of the questioning and identifying himself only as Josamu, told The Financial Gazette. "I thought they were going to burn it (the shack) down."

"It's just like the old days," Josamu said, referring to Rhodesian tyranny, as the police triumphantly turned into the next street.

Like typical Zimbabweans, repression has not pushed these Mbare residents to revolt - not here against the armed policemen stalking the streets and certainly not against the government. It's a phenomenon many outside Zimbabwe fail to understand.

One Botswana national, writing recently to a local weekly, chided Zimbabweans for their "cowardice". A South African writer called Zimbabweans "whiners" who were getting what they deserved. South Africans had stormed the streets to demand their freedom, he said, but Zimbabweans were instead just plain lazy.

According to Miloon Kothari of the United Nations Human Rights Commission, the evictions are "a new form of apartheid".

The Crisis in Zimbabwe coalition says the operation showed up the government for its continuing failure to concentrate on the core needs of Zimbabwe's poor.

The National Association of Non-Governmental Organisations said "Operation Restore Order" would cause a "significant entrenchment of an already dire urban poverty, unemployment and human rights violations".

A coalition of Zimbabwean rights and opposition groups has called two days of protests, beginning today, against the aggressive drive by the government and city councils to destroy thousands of illegal ghetto homes across the country. The Broad Alliance has asked workers to "stay away" from work.

Middle-class political activists see an inevitable wave of massive street protests sweeping the government from office.

However, there was little on that Mbare street to suggest that some political, ideological fervour has suddenly gripped ordinary Zimbabweans and they are ready to place themselves and their homeless families in harm's way.

While the activists and foreign observers are "talking about a revolution", politics and all its gory hazards are not on the list of priorities for these homeless families. Just one decent meal is at the top of that list for many now without an income because informal enterprise has been virtually banned.

For the now jobless and homeless, work boycotts mean very little. And even though life has become unbearable, none of them is talking about giving their lives on the streets.

A series of mass action attempts over the years has not prodded the government to improve the lives of ordinary Zimbabweans, and political analysts say many are now resigned to an impoverished future.

"Zimbabweans are a unique lot. Very few other nations would stand for what we are tolerating. It's not in our nature to run down the street (in protest).

"But does that make us cowards? I think, if people are fair, they would say it makes us pragmatic and sensible, given the kind of disaster that any resistance will bring," one analyst said this week.

Many of the newly homeless have run out of household properties to sell, so they can no longer feed themselves. Their former landlords charge a fat fee for a bath and they have pulled their children out of school.

A family were leaving Fourth Avenue, trudging along with their wardrobe on a rickety pushcart towards the Mbare bus terminus about a 100 metres away.

These are the lucky few - at least they have somewhere to go. Those left behind are left to cringe at the malice of those driving the eviction campaign.

"No one in Zimbabwe comes from nowhere. Everybody belongs somewhere," Edmore Veterai, police officer commanding Harare province, told reporters last week.


Sedco Unveils $23,2bn Loan Facility for Informal Traders

The Herald (Harare)

June 9, 2005

THE Small Enterprises Development Corporation (Sedco) has unveiled a $23,2 billion loan facility for informal traders displaced by the current clean-up operation against illegal businesses and structures.

Sedco's business development and customer services manager, Mr Wilson Fifteen told Newsnet last night that in terms of infrastructure development, Sedco was looking at the establishment of artisans' hives and factory shells around the cities.

He said part of the money needed had already been put up for the development of structures along Willowvale Road while similar plans were underway for various parts of the country.

Mr Fifteen said they were putting up loan booths in all the areas being set up to enable the traders to borrow money for their projects.

Traders were required to produce a viable project and certificate of authority to operate in areas where they are, in order to access the loans.

He appealed to the Government and other stakeholders to inject more funds for the informal sector.

The Minister of Small and Medium Enterprises Development Cde Sithembiso Nyoni on Tuesday officiated at a ground-breaking ceremony to kick-start the construction of factory shells along Willowvale Road in Glen View.

Informal traders have welcomed the decision by the Government to build the factory shells for them and described the move as timely and good for promoting business.

Meanwhile, the clean-up operation continued in Harare yesterday, with residents of Glen View, Mabvuku and Tafara demolishing illegal structures at their homes yesterday.

Police spokesman for Harare province Inspector Whisper Bondai warned residents who were still occupying illegal structures at Eryecourt Farm along Seke Road to destroy them and vacate the premises.

"People should not expect any official notice to remove their illegal settlements as everyone is now aware of the on-going operation. May I warn all those occupying illegal structures to vacate the premises and to make necessary arrangements before the law enforcers intervene," he said.

Inspector Bondai also warned street vendors along main roads and at shopping centres to stop illegal vending and register with the authorities.

Some residents from the demolished areas expressed grief over the operation as they said they were almost destitute.

Police yesterday recovered 1 940kg of flour, several litres of cooking oil as they intensified their clean-up campaign in the city.

The flour, which was in 20-kilogramme bags, was found hidden at a house in Waterfalls on Tuesday night.

Police, acting on a tip-off, managed to recover the flour and took it to Harare Central Police Station. They also arrested the owner of the house. The cooking oil was discovered in the Willowvale industrial area.

Inspector Bondai said the cooking oil, which was in 10 drums, was hidden at a company in the industrial area and was recovered after a tip off from the public.

Police also raided and arrested the owner of a house in Rhodesville and impounded several crates of beer and various goods.

They believed that the house was being used as a brothel.

Police reiterated that they were determined to ensure that peace and stability prevailed countrywide. Some detractors of the clean-up operation were distributing flyers on Tuesday urging workers to stay away from work today and tomorrow.

The officer commanding Harare province Senior Assistant Commissioner Edmore Veterai said the police were fully alert and they had adequate resources to ensure that there was peace and stability.


Well, ho-hum, is it ethical to visit Zimbabwe on holidays?
Well, ho-hum since this is international year of micro-credit, and also the year of the British being better than ever before on Africa and ahem their post-imperialist legacy has no-one thought of suggesting micro-credit loans from Europe to Zimbabwean small businessfolk, as a mechanism to bypass state C-o-r-r-u-p-t-i-o-n kickstart local economies, and blaa blaa ribbid...

żor would that have not suited the usual Mugabe is the only b-a-s-t-a-r-d in this?

More soon

Learn about microcredit:

background pieces on Zimbabwe:

"How Zimbabweans votes and "not votes" have thus far been counted". Elections 2005
"May God bless Tutu's lost soul..." background to those elections

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