Editor’s Memo


THE operation was anything you can imagine but clean. Barbaric, brutal, heartless, vindictive, immoral, cynical and above all ruthless are more accurate descriptions.

That is the grossly under-reported human rights calamity unfolding in Zimbabwe’s towns and cities under the guise of restoring order. I believe only the survivors of South Africa’s apartheid-engineered forced Bantu removals would be able to appreciate the scale and ferocity of the operation.

Ian Smith never managed anything so simple to keep the towns “clean”.

The ZRP’s Operation Restore Order is in full swing. The police are going about the rapine with gusto, destroying everything deemed illegal. Never mind that there has been no conclusive definition of what is illegal. The police carry no papers from any recognised court of law as proof that a particular shack was not approved by council.

There can be no worse lawlessness than the callous operation going on in Zimbabwe’s urban areas.

Many families have been rendered homeless and their sources of livelihood destroyed in the senseless “clean-up”. The popular Mupedzanhamo and Siya So were razed on Monday. That was in addition to the destruction of many flea markets in the city which were paying rent to council.

Furniture manufacturers at several small-scale industrial sites across the city went up in smoke last week. Their customers will be seeking recovery of their deposits!

While most urban workers were stranded on the streets because fuel shortages and an ill-timed blitz on commuter omnibuses made transport scarce, the police and their riot police siblings had many dozens of trucks at their disposal to carry out their dastardly operation against unarmed civilians. As was the case with the land reform programme, government is once again guilty of doing the right thing in the wrong way.

Its land reform created poverty and scarcities which have in turn spawned the so-called black market in virtually everything imaginable. It bred and nurtured a culture of lawlessness and lack of accountability on the farms which swiftly spread to the cities. All that one needed to break the law with impunity was to produce a Zanu PF card, know how to chant the right slogan and keep a Zimbabwean flag as a token of patriotism. That is how so-called housing cooperatives mushroomed in undesignated urban areas without local authorities doing anything.

That government condoned and seemed to abet lawlessness made the settlements appear legal. Even if they were not, which is the case with most of the structures built by war veterans in Harare, the brutality with which government has gone about uprooting them should make the residents feel more sinned against than sinning.

The most cynical reporting on this sordid affair came from the Herald. In typical Jonathan Moyo fashion, against the clear evidence of their own pictures, Herald reporters claimed informal traders “heeded” government’s call and “happily” destroyed their “illegal” shacks. To say a man would happily destroy what he has spent his life building without alternative accommodation or employment is dishonest as well as heartless. Places like Siya So gained notoriety in the 70’s as no-go areas even for Smith’s police — hence the Siya So and Skuzapo T-shirts that could easily get one arrested.

As for Newsnet, they are a cursed lot. They failed to record live history being made under their noses. Here was a man-made tsunami that should shock the entire civilised world going unrecorded because foreign journalists need to be accredited first while local zombies are too spineless to justify their membership of the journalism profession. Such disasters rarely happen twice in a man’s lifetime.

We have been told that alternative operating places will be found for the victims of this tsunami. That is after all their wares have been destroyed and most of them have been impoverished beyond recovery. That is surely to stand logic on its head and they expect us to believe them. Why didn’t those responsible build the new structures and then move people into them?

We are inclined to believe those who see retribution in the whole operation rather than the authorities’ twaddle about cleaning up the city. Unless the clean-up means removing all anti-Zanu PF vermin. That fits in nicely in the Gukurahundi scheme that has followed all previous Zimbabwean elections.

What we however cannot take away from the Zanu PF leadership is their inventiveness. In the midst of swingeing fuel and transport shortages and unconscionable price increases, they have made sure we spend the period before the next election thanking them for cleaning up the mess they created in the urban areas by failing to build a solid formal employment sector. Having failed to inspire citizens with their empty electoral victory, they have decided to reduce unemployment by chasing out of town all those who refused to take up land they could not use productively.

Where I don’t agree with my colleagues is when they accuse the forever effete MDC of complicity in this mad operation.

I believe they are still consulting on another “final push”. Come 2010, they will deliver the coup de grace. I also feel sorry for Zanu PF supporters in Harare South, White Cliff and Caledonia farms who believed the propaganda about Morgan Tsvangirai calling their settlements “mushrooms”!

His party’s loss in the March election was a blessing in disguise. He didn’t

have to uproot them. We all know who did!

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