Murambastvina victims still homless
HARARE – Six years after President Mugabe’s Zanu PF dominated government unleashed the might of its military, police bulldozers in a slum clearance campaign that left an estimated 700 000 people homeless, the ghost of the ill-conceived idea still haunts its victims.
Leaning her tiny back against the entrance door of her house made of corrugated iron sheets Alice Mangwana, 32, painstakingly narrates how she has been living in squalor in the dilapidated shack ever since her brick house was demolished during the infamous clean up campaign dubbed Operation Murambatsvina in 2005.
The shack that is located in Jacha Settlement in Epworth has been her home together with her three children for the past five years and she has failed to build decent shelter since her husband passed away.
“I was a home owner in Kuwadzana but it was destroyed during Operation Murambatsvina and I have been living like this ever since. I don’t have any option she said as tears trickled down her cheeks.
Alice is not the only one who is living in such a situation. To worsen her suffering her two children dropped out of school soon after the operation they are now full-time Air-time vendors in the suburb.
There are hundreds of families living in such circumstances and there are scores of children who are not attending school.
Many narrate similar stories of having their shelters demolished during the infamous operation that President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF led government initiated.
President Mugabe and Zanu PF said that the operation was meant to get rid of filth in urban centres but some political analysts argued that the operation was aimed at decongesting the urban centres of perceived MDC sympathisers.
Anna Mawema: She will never forget the fateful day when heavily armed police officers pounced with the aid of some bulldozers and demolished her house in Dzivarasekwa.
“They destroyed my house that had taken me years to build. I will never forgive anyone who was behind the horrific act. I had to relocate to living in this ramshackle for five years’, she said.
A stone throw from Anna‘s shack there is another family in the same predicament.
Johannes Maruma, 44, has been living in his poorly built adobe house together with his wife and five children following the demolition of his house during the same operation in 2005.
“I was a proud owner of a neatly built house and they destroyed it during the Murambatsvina blitz. I had to migrate here .The house is substandard as you may see but there is nothing I can do since I have failed to secure enough money to build proper shelter.
I was evicted from the operation Garikai House in unclear circumstances.
The Local Board has been promising to build us adequate houses but that hasn’t materialised,” he said. In a bid to keep the memories of the infamous crackdown alive, Human Rights watch group Amnesty International commemorated World Habitat Day at the Harare Gardens.
Scores of people attended a drama performance reciting the operation and depicting mock shelters of houses and roadside shops.
Gogo Musiiwa Murenje, 73, left to fend for six grandchildren who are going to school when their parents died in Mbare narrated how the operation affected her livelihood.
“They destroyed the house while I watched haplessly and up to now I have no descent shelter. My grandchildren had to drop out of school as we were driven and dumped at a roofless house at Hopley Farm. Life has not been kind for us and I just wait for the day when the lord takes me from earth for eternal rest,” she said tearfully.
According to Amnesty International, the forcible evictions left thousands of children out of school.
“The Impact of Zimbabwe’s mass forced evictions on the right to education shows how thousands of children and young people forced from their homes during Operation Murambatsvina are unlikely to access adequate schooling’ said Amnesty International.
Deputy Director for Africa Michelle Kagari said the demolitions and evictions of people to new settlements worsened the plight of the poor and drove them “deeper into poverty”.
“The government’s removal of people from places where they had access to education, and its subsequent failure to provide education has struck a devastating blow to the lives and dreams of thousands of children’, she said.
She also added that Zimbabwe is obliged under International Human Rights law to guarantee education to all children amongst other benefits.
Under the International Convention on Economic, Social and cultural Rights (Icers) and the African Charter on Human and People‘s Rights, the government has to respect, promote, protect and fulfil the right to education.
President Mugabe recently commissioned a US$25 million housing project for public servants in Highfield working class suburb expected to house 80 families — a drop in the ocean considering the level of urban homelessness in Zimbabwe.
Ironically, government has been threatening to destroy another housing project in Dzivarasekwa working class suburb arguing that it was built on land allocated for public servants.
Although donors have been willing to assist in reducing homelessness a proposed housing US$5 million project funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in conjunction with the Harare City Council for the construction of some low cost housing limits remains stalled.
In suburbs like Mbare members of the infamous Chipangano party militia are demanding a share from the project, posing problems for city mayor Muchadeyi Masunda.
The UN has designated the first Monday of October every year as World Habitat Day
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