Accessibility links

Zimbabwe's 'Clean-Up' Homeless Face Deteriorating Conditions


Three months after the United Nations warned that Zimbabwe's urban clean-up campaign "unleashed chaos and untold human suffering", the status of many of the 700,000 people who were evicted from homes and businesses is deteriorating further.

Summer rains are just weeks away and most of those made homeless in May and June are still living in the open. Most have not gone to rural areas as the government wanted.

Roderick Tchakayika, age 48, was a street trader and had built a three room brick house, in a suburb 20 kilometers north of Harare. He lost his home and livelihood when both were destroyed on June 19 and is still living in the open with five children.

The urban campaign officially named Operation Murambatsvina translates into "clean out the filth," in the majority Shona language. President Robert Mugabe, who ordered the campaign says the action was taken to clear illegally-built slums that bred criminal activities. But Mr. Tchakayika says he believes it was instead calculated to drive out urban supporters of the opposition MDC, Movement for Democratic Change.

"Murambatsvina, they did murambatsvina," Mr. Tchakayika says. "Maybe they just want to start violence to the people maybe, they don't want the people to stay in town because most of the people in town they are voting for MDC. How can I go to rural area, because if I go there the chief said no, go back to your place, if I come here in town they say no, go back, so where can I go? Nowhere to go. So I am just like a street kid."

Mr. Tchakayika says he will have to remain living in the suburb he moved to 18 years ago, as he has no relatives in the rural area where he grew up.

He says he is hoping that the Catholic Church will provide him with a one room plastic shelter before the rains come, usually in early November. The Church plans to build 300 shelters before the rains.

At the northern edge of his suburb there are 50 small brick houses under construction by the government, since the United Nations condemned the demolition campaign as "inhuman."

The people in this suburb say they do not know who will be allowed to live in the houses when they are complete. The Catholic Church says four thousand homes were knocked down and need replacing, in this suburb alone.

None of the residents of this or other urban suburbs in most of Zimbabwe's towns and cities have been recipients of international aid before. Even though they were poor, until now they were generally able to fend for themselves.

Mr. Tchakayika was selling vegetables in the streets before he was stopped by the government in June.

The United Nations has provided safe drinking water for several affected communities, and other non-governmental organizations have been delivering food since May and June. The NGOs do not want to be named because they say they fear their efforts to help people will be stopped.

President Robert Mugabe was quoted in the state's Herald newspaper Monday, that many NGOs have political agendas.

XS
SM
MD
LG