Thursday, June 09, 2005

More on Hatcliffe extension

Harare North MP, Trudy Stevenson chimes in with the following on the traversity in Hatcliffe extension:

"I went out to Hatcliffe Extension this morning, accompanied by 3 friends, and met Fr William Guri (sorry, not Duri as I wrote initially) at New Stands. We spotted a couple of lorries from the distance, but could not see a heavy police presence. People were very subdued, sitting on or beside their belongings which appeared packed and ready to go. They reported that they had been told they would all have to leave today.

On vacated stands the building materials were still piled up or scattered around - i.e. wooden cabin panels, asbestos roofing, windowframes, bricks, poles - because people are not allowed to take their building materials with them on the police lorries, only their furniture, food and clothes. This is a serious financial loss to poor people, and we wonder what will happen to all that building material.We tried to establish where the people were being taken, but this was difficult. The municipal police and workers did not want to tell us. "Go and ask at Mbare police station," we kept being told. This is puzzling, since Hatcliffe Extension is under Borrowdale police station, while Mbare is right in the centre of town.

Eventually we saw one of the police lorries return for its second load, and quickly established that they were being taken to Caledonia Farm - this is the farm just outside the city boundary beyond Tafara, to the east of the city.Many of the people protested that they did not want to go to Caledonia Farm. Some were trying to make other arrangements quickly, before the lorries reached their stands - others had already set off on foot to various safer destinations - difficult with their all their furniture, however. Fr. William was of the opinion that it would be better to let the people go to Caledonia, then at least we would know where they were, and in any case there was no chance of their being able to stay put. The police had told people they were not forcing people to go to Caledonia at this stage, they were going voluntarily, but when they finished all the voluntary trips, they would force anyone still left onto the lorries to Caledonia.

We decided to go and have a look at Caledonia Farm - but before we left, we had a contretemps with the policeman who had been accompanying the returning lorry. One of the purported municipal workers had reported to him that Nyandoro (UZ student, former president of SRC) was moving around with me encouraging people to resist eviction and encouraging the municipal workers to stop working and join the stayaway instead!! He was apparently incensed that we did not follow his "order" to go to Mbare police station, and that we had dared speak to people in the returning lorry and discovered the destination! Nyandoro finally persuaded the two of them that we were on legitimate business, as I am the MP for the area, trying to find out where my constituents are being moved, and he is one of my constituents accompanying his MP! After this we headed to Arcturus Road to look for Caledonia Farm.

Soon after leaving, we crossed a Defender full of riot police and a police lorry full of "police" in plain clothes in the back, heading for Hatcliffe Extension. Caledonia took a bit of finding, and we were glad to be in a 4x4, because the last bit is quite tricky, especially coming back out up the hill - but when we eventually found it, we were all shocked. People are not spread around in open fields on the farm, as we had imagined. They are crowded together in the fenced compound immediately around the farmhouse. When we drove past (we didn't risk going inside) about a hundred were crowded around the verandah, and a man was addressing them with fist raised in the air (ZANU-PF slogan signal) - so we could imagine what he was saying!

The people are staying in tents, and the tents are right next to each other, not a bit of space in between. Laundry was drying on the fence, children were wandering around behind the crowd, and we noticed a police car parked inside.The main shock was the small size of the place - there is no way all the people from Hatcliffe Extension (there are still roughly 6000 - 8000 people staying there) will fit inside that compound, even if they all remain standing! And even before the Hatcliffe people started arriving, there were others already there from Porta Farm - and there will be many others coming from all over Harare. We are told that it is a transit holding camp, and people are only supposed to stay there 3 days for "vetting," before they go "where they belong" - and noone knows where that is or how they will get there. Fr William however reported that when he visited earlier this week, people from Porta Farm had already been there a week.

The health dangers looming in Caledonia transit holding camp are obvious, but serious. Moreover, we wonder what people are eating, where they are getting their water, and how the sick, especially Aids sufferers, are being cared for, and what is happening to the orphans. Another major worry is the children who should be at school. Zambuko Primary at Hatcliffe Extension had 1,100 children registered. That school was forced to close on Sunday 29 May, when police destroyed the Holding Camp. Since then some have managed to attend Hatcliffe 2 Primary for a few days, but now most of those families will be going to Caledonia - and where will all the children go to school? I am sure the school at Tafara is already overcrowded, and it certainly is not automatic that children get places at any school.

We suspect that people at that Holding Camp are being kept under strict control, possibly not even allowed to leave until they are shipped off elsewhere. It has all the appearance of a detention centre - and it is extremely likely that they will be forced to attend re-education "pungwes" (all night rallies) at night for political correctness. The "vetting" may well be to sort out the ZanuPF members from the others, then they might well be re-allocated their stands back at Hatcliffe Extension - and the others will be discarded along with the other "rubbish" in this "clean-up campaign". Certainly Deputy Minister of Local Governmnet Zuwawo (sp?) rang alarm bells when he allocated most of the stands at White Cliff to people from Manyame - his own constituency!We are deeply concerned about the future of people from Hatcliffe Extension."

Trudy Stevenson, MP Harare North Constituency

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