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Zimbabwe: Displacement and Survival

AfricaFocus Bulletin
Aug 6, 2006 (060806)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

One year after "Operation Murambatsvina" ("Clean-Up"), the damaging effects of the government campaign aimed at the urban poor are still visible, reports a recent delegation from South African social movements. With Zimbabweans expressing little hope in a divided opposition, internal efforts at resistance are concentrating on survival.

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains the visit report from South Africa's Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, a recent report on meetings in Harare of the Combined Harare Residents Association, and a report of a survey of Zimbabwean asylum seekers in South Africa by the South African-based Zimbabwe Torture Victims Project.

Another AfricaFocus Bulletin sent out today contains excerpts from interviews from the recent Public Broadcasting System feature "Zimbabwe: Shadows and Lies."

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on Zimbabwe, visit

In related news, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has withdrawn from efforts to mediate between the government and opposition in Zimbabwe, while former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa has begun to explore another mediation effort. Both critics and supporters of Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe see Mkapa as biased towards Mugabe and unlikely to be effective. But at least one observer thinks that Mkapa will aim for an "honorable exit" of Mugabe from political rule. (See and

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Report on South African Social Movements Visit to Zimbabwe

Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition
711 Khotso House 62 Marshall Street / Sauer Street Marshalltown Johannesburg 2001
Tel: 011 838 3732 / Tel(fax): 011 838 9642

[available at]


A delegation of four ; Philani Zungu, Nopasika Mboto, Ellen Chauke and Siphiwe Segodi from different social movements in South Africa visited Zimbabwe between the 3rd and 12th of July 2006. They comprised of one comrade from the Anti-Eviction Campaign which was formed as a response against eviction and other related social injustices. Two comrades were from the Anti-Privatisation Forum which brings a number of organisations together in struggle, including communities threatened by evictions/forced removals. One comrade was from Abahlali Base Mjondolo fighting and defending the rights of the poor to demand basic needs. The visit was organised by Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, South Africa office.

This report covers the general circumstances that the citizens of Zimbabwe find themselves in, one year after Operation Murambatsvina.

Objectives of Visit

  • To witness the effect of Operation Murambatsvina in general
  • To exchange views, learn and share experience with the victims of Operation Murambatsvina.
  • To forge links for building solidarity and network.

The Visit

The delegation was warmly welcomed by the Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA) on the 3rd of July 2006. CHRA facilitated all the tours during the entire visit with assistance from Bulawayo Agenda and Christian Alliance. The delegation was accommodated in various households and hosting was rotated amongst the four delegates. Such accommodation provided the delegation with an opportunity to meet and discuss with various people in different communities to get different accounts on the livelihood of Zimbabweans. The mornings and the afternoons kept the delegation busy as they visited various sites of Operation Murambatsvina and held interviews with the Zimbabwean citizens.

The areas visited in Harare included Tafara, Glenora, Hatfield, Glenview, Dzivarasekwa, Tynwald, Sunningdale, Kuwadzana, Kambuzuma, Mbare, Calidonia, Porta Farm, Hatcliffe, Tongogara, Highfield, Borrowdale, Warrenpark, Greendale and Ushewokunze.

In Masvingo the group visited Great Zimbabwe and had a briefing meeting with members of the municipality. In Gweru the group visited some home industries including Kotamayi Botique. In Bulawayo the group met with some pastors, Bulawayo Agenda Director and victims of Operation Murambatsvina. The group also had a chance to visit former Killarney squatter camp where shacks were demolished by the government in the name of cleaning up the city.

The group was briefed on Murambatsvina as a government program which began in May 2005 where the state demolished people's shelters and removed vendors from the streets in the name of cleaning up the city and the townships. The delegation gathered from the community that this Operation was nick-named Tsunami as it left a trail of destruction.

Operation Murambatsvina - One Year After

The delegation clearly noticed the damage caused by this 'Clean - Up' campaign. There was still evidence of the concrete rubble where once stood housing for Zimbabweans. Open fields which previously were sites for thriving home industries were a further testimony of this monstrous operation. Such home industries used to be means of survival for thousands of families and served as an alternative of the unemployed. The current unemployment rate in Zimbabwe is standing at 80%. The streets were wiped clean of all forms of vendors further eliminating a source of livelihood to hundreds of families.

According to the statistics made available to the group, 99.9% of Harare's high density residents were the most affected directly or indirectly. People were left homeless, sleeping in the open. Some family members were sleeping in abandoned scrap cars since backyard rooms which were built to provide sufficient accommodation were demolished. Pieces of furniture were seen still lying around as there is no shelter to store it. Most backyard rooms which were being rented out were also demolished with or without any rent paid.

The government insisted that there was no resistance during the operation, but the delegation learnt otherwise. People are using makeshift shelters made of plastics, cardboard and many have returned to the same sites where the demolishing of their houses took place. The delegation met with one individual who was arrested as a result of this resistance. The delegation gathered that the police still visit the sites of destruction and order everyone in a makeshift shelters to vacate the "cleaned -up" sites. Most of the residents complain that the government has never built houses for them but instead it continues to destroy the little that people have built for themselves.

The delegation noted that most victims of Murambatsvina had no alternative accommodation in the rural areas where they were told to go, so most returned to the cities after being dumped in the rural areas where most did not know anyone . Most argued that they could barely survive in the rural areas. The government destroyed dwellings made of brick and mortar claiming it was cleaning the country of any squatter camps.

The delegation heard evidence of an HIV/AIDS support group that was severely affected since it was not getting any form of support from the state and the building which the organisation used was demolished and as a result, the project was brought to a halt. The support group now has difficulties in tracking its members and they have to start all over again for their projects and shelter to continue. An orphanage was destroyed during the operation and the poor orphans had to seek shelter at a church.

Students suffered as they had to dropout after their homes were destroyed and the parents/guardians were sent to the rural areas. A women's group focussing on women empowerment was severely affected as the members were selling their goods in the informal market that was destroyed during the operation. The women are currently facing continuous harassment by the police ordering them to stop selling their wares.

The delegation also visited the Ushewokunze settlement which had previously been occupied by civil servants and war veterans. The dwellings were completely destroyed although some reconstruction has since started. This surprised the delegation since they had thought that only those people who were perceived to be anti-government were targeted, and yet civil servants work for the government and war veterans are by and large part of the ZANU-PF machinery.

Masvingo and Gweru were less affected compared to Harare. The group did not spend a lot of time in these areas. However, they met with 2 councillors from Masvingo City Council where the role of councils in Murambatsvina was discussed. The councillors briefly told the group that they were never consulted on the operation by central government or anyone else.

In Gweru, the delegation managed to gain access to the Operation Garikayi (the so-called 'rebuilding' programme of the government) houses as compared to Harare where there was tight security in the new Garikayi houses. The residents of both Harare and Gweru claimed only individuals who lost their own homes had the possibility of getting houses under Operation Garikayi. Tenants have been excluded. Most people claimed the Garikayi Operation was an attempt by the government to cover up the embarrassment of Operation Murambatsvina. Further claims were that Operation Garikayi benefited those who were politically connected to the government and those who could afford a certain amount. Individuals who were meant to benefit from Garikayi have been long forgotten. The current number of units build under Operation Garikayi constitutes about 5% of the dwellings destroyed in Operation Murambatsvina. Further claims are that the Operation Garikayi has all but come to a halt due to lack of funds for construction.

The situation in Bulawayo was similar to that in Harare. A coalition of churches made positive intervention around the victims of Operation Murambatsvina by providing food, clothing, burying the dead and paying school fees to date. The church leaders were harassed by police for helping the victims of Operation Murambatsvina. Data was collected of people put in transit camps during the Operation by the churches and was provided as part of the church's submissions to the UN envoy.

The delegation was debriefed by Bulawayo Agenda on how the organisation facilitated a platform for residents to discuss Murambatsvina. They were faced by police harassment as well, but are striving to bring the Bulawayo residents associations together.


The Zimbabwean community face formidable challenges caused by political divisions. Many still have to accept that Operation Murambatsvina affected everyone despite their political affiliation. There is a need to eliminate individualism and replace it with collective effort. Unity amongst the communities could strengthen social movements in the country. There is a growing need for communities to overcome their accumulated fear of the government if a way forward, one year after Murambatsvina, is to be found. Those outside Zimbabwe, in particular the poor majority who themselves are suffering from evictions, lack of adequate housing and other basic services, need to build solidarity with ordinary Zimbabweans and embark on campaigns that will bring meaningful and lasting political and socio-economic change to Zimbabwe. The poor communities in South Africa can, and should, project the voice of the suffering Zimbabweans.

Harare residents resolve to end tyranny in the capital

Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA)

July 17, 2006

This is the summarised report of the three public meetings held on Saturday 15 July 2006 in Mabvuku, Kambuzuma and Highfield.

Harare residents have come up with a concoction of resolutions to move the agendas of restoring Harare to its rightful owners as a matter of urgency.

Three public meetings held at Mabvuku Community Hall Area D', Kambuzuma Community Hall and at Zororo Community Centre on Saturday 15 July 2006. These gatherings were organised with the main objective of raising residents' awareness of their rights to representation at Town House and defining the areas of collective response.

At all these gatherings the residents were unanimous in their demands and called on the government and the City of Harare to immediately address the issues affecting residents in areas of service delivery, the circus at Town House, the illegal commission running the affairs of Harare, and the water crisis.

Addressing the Mabvuku gathering, Joseph Rose, Ward 21 coordinator and also the Chairperson of the Membership Committee said residents had to make clear demands on the government, the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA) and the City of Harare.

Israel Mabhoo, the Acting Chairperson of CHRA, who addressed the Highfield gathering told CHRA Information afterwards that: "People are now geared to show their anger by way of protests. The good thing about all these public meetings is that residents are expressing their true feelings. The City of Harare has been robbing residents and residents will no longer keep quiet. Their anger is apparent and that is what we as CHRA has to harness and use it productively."

He said 'Residents must respond promptly to issues affecting them and not to wait for someone to come in and give them the solutions," Rose said. "The Combined Harare Residents' Association will not sit back and watch things get worse at Town House and residents are reduced to objects of public ridicule. Residents will determine how Harare is run.

"CHRA is law-abiding organisation that believes in the laws of this country but will not hesitate to confront the municipality and the government over collapsed service delivery. We have to pursue the legal route first just for the record; whatever happens thereafter depends on the municipality's response to our issues."

Also speaking at the Kambuzuma public meeting, attended by nearly 400 residents, Jabusile Shumba, the CHRA Advocacy and Training Officer said residents should stop being cry-babies but should take the initiative to restore their city to its rightful owners.

He said: "The City of Harare has pursued a route of illegality from budget formulation, implementation to service delivery. The culture of impunity that we witness today is a direct result of the illegal commission in charge of the capital. As residents we should not be hoodwinked by inconsistent statements coming from Town House. We should get organised and move together as a community o9f residents to defend what is legitimately ours for the taking."

He explained that the budget that the City of Harare has implemented was carried through despite written objections lodged by Harare residents at Town House. This was a clear indication that the commission running the affairs of Harare was irresponsible, arrogant and illegitimate.

At all the public gatherings, the residents were mainly concerned with the absence of an elected council mandated by the residents to run their affairs. They also raised their concern over the involvement of ZINWA in water supply and administration which has cost the residents more money in rates payment.

The gatherings rejected the joint statement placed in the media by the City of Harare and ZINWA encouraging "residents to pay the May water rates instead of the new rates imposed by ZINWA in June".

CHRA is issuing out objection letters on the water crisis in Harare. These letters are being collected from our CHRA offices at Daventry House Room 103, at corner South Avenue and Angwa Street.

Below are the key resolutions of the public meetings which residents said there would be no compromise on those demands;

  • Residents reject the continued involvement of ZINWA in water supply and administration in Harare.
  • Mayoral and council elections must be held in Harare before residents can fund the municipality under a commission through payment of rates. No taxation without representation!
  • Residents shall not pay for un-provided services like refuse collection, arguing that there is contract between the City of Harare and residents through an exchange of value.
  • The workforce at the Kambuzuma District Office is incompetent and has to be replaced if the municipality hopes to maintain a relation with residents.
  • Residents want the District Offices to give residents a total breakdown of income and expenditure at each of the 29 district and sub-district offices in Harare.
  • Residents demand actual meter readings and not estimate readings and,
  • To wage a total rates boycott by mobilising all residents and the business community until Town House is restored to Harare residents.

Statement on torture report 'Over Our Dead Bodies'

Zimbabwe Torture Victims Project (ZTVP)

July 05, 2006

[Full report available on]

The report "Over Our Dead Bodies" adds to the growing body of evidence showing the problem of state torture in Zimbabwe.

This report shows the work of the Zimbabwe Torture Victims Project (ZTVP) which provides medical treatment, psychosocial counselling and legal services to primary victims of organised violence and torture. The project assists Zimbabwean torture survivors from the year 2000 until now who have sought refuge in South Africa. The project is based in Johannesburg at the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation.

The new report was presented to the House of Lords in London on the 26th of June 2006 to commemorate the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.

The 267 cases analysed in the report show evidence of the perpetration of systematic and organised violence and torture in Zimbabwe, often by state sponsored agents. 45% of victims were tortured by the ruling party, Zanu PF, 27% by police and 22% by state youth militia, whom are often under the age of 18.

The most common forms of torture documented in our report, either exclusively or combined, are: severe beating in 72% of cases reported; electric shock in 13% , often on genitals and mouth; and falanga (beating on the soles of ones feet) 7%. Psychological torture involving threats against oneself or families, witnessing of abuse and torture of others, and disappearances are other forms of torture described in the report. These experiences of persecution in Zimbabwe account for many of the difficulties our clients face in terms of being the 'survivor', as well as coping with the many hardships they encounter in South Africa.

"Considering that the majority of the Zimbabwean victims were employed prior to coming to South Africa, the data obtained challenges the commonly held belief in South Africa that Zimbabweans are coming into the country in search of employment" said Ahmed Motala, acting director of CSVR. "This report proves that many Zimbabweans are genuinely fleeing persecution and coming south for safety and protection."

The majority of ZTVP clients face humanitarian crises because of the difficulties they face in getting legal asylum status with the Department of Home Affairs. Without this vital protection, the already vulnerable victims are exposed to undue levels of stress and are hard-pressed to obtain housing, food and employment.

"It is imperative that the South African Government be true to its human rights commitments, enshrined in its Constitution and international conventions to which it is signatory, and that it expedite access to the asylum determination procedure for Zimbabweans," said Mr Motala.

Over our dead bodies! Report on victims of organized violence and torture in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe Torture Victims Project (ZTVP)
July, 2006


This report provides a brief top-line analysis of 267 Zimbabweans who sought assistance from the Zimbabwe Torture Victims Project (ZTVP), located in Johannesburg, South Africa, over the past one and half years. In recent times, South Africa has seen an increase in the number of Zimbabweans coming into South Africa linked to the political crisis in that country. In particular, since 2002, there has been a massive increase in the number of Zimbabweans requesting political asylum in South Africa. To illustrate, in 2002 approximately 120 Zimbabweans applied for asylum. In 2003, this number increased to approximately 2700, and trebled to 8500 in 2004. By the end of 2005, approximately 16000 Zimbabweans had applied for asylum in South Africa . Recent statistics further show that the movement into South Africa of Zimbabweans fleeing persecution is not abating. Instead, for the months of January, February and March 2006, Zimbabwe has come to represent the main country from which the largest number of newly arrived asylum seekers in South Africa derive. In the first quarter of 2006 alone, 7211 Zimbabweans applied for refugee status in South Africa .

A number of studies have sought to document the deepening political crisis in Zimbabwe, patterns of violence and torture in that country, and their links to key political processes, such as elections. In September 2005, the ZTVP undertook a snap survey of Zimbabweans living in five different locations in Gauteng province to obtain a better sense of potential clients that the ZTVP might have to deal with, as well as the proportion of Zimbabweans who might potentially qualify for assistance in terms of need . That study found evidence to suggest that there would be an increasing need to assist Zimbabweans who had been victims of torture residing in South Africa. To be able to do so, the study concluded that there was a pressing need to gain a better understanding of the position and plight of Zimbabweans who have come to South Africa in search of refuge. It is this need which this brief report seeks to address. ...

AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

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