Thursday, June 02, 2005

"Cleanup" Exposed

After weeks of speculation about the real reason behind Mugabe & Co.'s cleanup operation, Zimbabwe's Financial Gazette has released the most complete explanation of why the poor urbanites are the real targets behind the exercise. Why are they targets? Because they have denied ZANU-PF control of the urban centers by their vote.

The clean up cannot be about illegal structures built by the informals because as Hama Sari writes,

"BUSINESS tycoon Sam Levy's lavish Borrowdale office block built in the late 1990s without council approval still stands today but the same cannot be said of illegal structures in Harare's densely-populated residential areas - razed to the ground in the past two weeks.
Levy, who in October 2000 escaped with a $200 fine for importing 50 motorcycles inscribed "Police" without authority, had the knack for putting up illegal structures at his plush Sam Levy Village under the nose of partisan municipal authorities.

Roger Boka - the late business magnate whose United Merchant Bank collapsed in 1998 under the weight of a liquidity crisis - had also benefited from the excessive and highly suspicious inertia on the part of the city fathers now astonishingly displaying unrelenting vigour in bringing down illegal structures belonging to poor citizens. Boka, a fierce proponent of black economic empowerment, was treated with kid gloves after he constructed cotton auction floors despite a council prohibition order. The floors, which were yet to be completed at the time of Boka's death in February 1999, remain a white elephant epitomising the authorities' double standards.

Are the authorities genuinely enforcing the by-laws or they have now embarked on a war of attrition against urbanites for overwhelmingly voting for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in the March 31 elections? Why is the long arm of the law hesitant in dealing with the rich and famous whose illegal structures were regularised yet they were obvious candidates for demolition?"

If this was about cleaning up Harare and other cities, why wasn't an operation like this done years ago? Better yet, why did the (ZANU-PF) council create the illegal shanty towns in 1991 prior to the Commonweath Heads of Goverment Meeting (CHOGM) if they are so bad? The government's defense line that they want to restore the city has little credibility:

"Yet others find it difficult to believe the same city fathers, who had indirectly given the nod to the illegal settlements by turning a blind eye on informal traders for so many years, could today make such a dramatic U-turn in broad daylight."

And as Zimonline notes,
"Whitecliff Farm was seized by veterans of Zimbabwe’s 1970s independence war and other supporters of the government during the height of farm invasions five years ago. The invaders built houses and shacks at the farm with tacit approval from President Robert Mugabe and his government.
Pro-ZANU invaders are doing the same thing today on farms seized under the controversial land reform excercise.

"The government has come out in defence of the campaign, saying it is meant to rid cities of filth and crime, particularly the thriving illegal black market that has worked against central bank-driven economic revival strategies."

Yet as the MDC leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, said in a statement after touring areas affected by the cleanup,
"Over half of the economy activity in Zimbabwe is now conducted in the informal sector, which consists of nearly three million individual enterprises and supports the great majority of the people. With barely eight percent of adult Zimbabweans in formal sector employment, the wholesale destruction of these small family businesses is a betrayal of the principles of the liberation struggle. The use of armed police to carry out this exercise and to intimidate those affected reveals the true character of this regime,"
It's about preserving ZANU-PF's grip on power in Zimbabwe. Ironically, this desperate effort might provide the spark that ignites mass protests that lead to the overthrow of the ZANU leadership.

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