An exercise in futility

HARARE - Gogo Dismini casts a lonely figure at her house along Chatima Road in Mbare.
At about 9 o’clock in the morning she is already sunbathing with her back facing the sun.

The ever-noticeable empty gaze in her ageing bluish eyes is reminiscent of what struck most European visitors in colonial Algeria.

Most native Algerians struck most observers due to their empty gaze on land that was expropriated from them by French colonialists.

They saw no future for themselves and poverty was written all over their faces.

It was difficult for them to ever think that one day they will have something to smile at. Of course Gogo Dismini lives in an independent Zimbabwe; she has no idea of what happened in Algeria.

What makes her worry endlessly is the abject poverty that most of her peers find themselves in. Their source of livelihood has been wiped away in a couple of hours.

It was more painful when she literally paid some people to destroy her only means of livelihood — the backyard structures during the madness of Operation Murambatsvina, the human- made version of the Asian Tsunami that badly tormented countries such as Indonesia in 2005.

The Zimbabwean man-made Tsunami caused a lot of suffering.

It was described by many observers as an operation that was carried out with indifference to human suffering.

Many poor and vulnerable households lost their forms of livelihood while the informal sector which employs more than 50 percent of the country’s working population was razed to the ground further compounding the already dire situation.

The after effects of the Tsunami spiralled the already galloping inflation to unprecedented world record.
Even the acting Finance minister of the post 2008 elections Patrick Chinamasa failed to pronounce such big figures in his budget presentation, the best he could do was to burst into uncontrolled laughter.

Before the Tsunami Gogo Dismini was always in jovial mood especially towards the end of the month.

She would remind all her tenants who would have delayed paying her dues “Heyi mumba umo, mandikanganwa here? (Have you forgotten to pay your rent?) What pains her and many others in her situation is that after the destruction of their structures in no time the same structures have sprouted like mushrooms in the suburb."

The question that always troubles her is why were the structures destroyed anyway?

For a visitor who left immediately before the Tsunami to be told that all the illegal structures were destroyed  will almost appear like a fictitious account.

The same structures that existed before the Tsunami are almost back albeit with vengeance in places such as Mbare.

What puzzles many observers is the fact that Murambatsvina has utterly failed to be a beneficial move at all.

Murambatsvina was aimed at “stemming disorderly or chaotic urbanisation and its attendant problems that hinder the government and local authorities from enforcing national laws and local authority by-laws as well as delivering such services as water, electricity, sewerage and refuse removal on a planned basis”.

It was also aimed at minimising the threat of major disease outbreaks due to overcrowding and squalor.

But up to now has order been restored? Are local authorities now better able to enforce their by-laws? To what extent are services such as electricity, sewerage and refuse removal been efficient? What about the outbreak of diseases and overcrowding?  

For Gogo, the pain will be more severe as others who have built the illegal structures continue to reap the profits as the city fathers rejected a proposal by the city’s Finance and Development Committee to destroy the structures due to fear of losing future local government elections.

Just a week ago, the law enforcement agencies launched an operation to eradicate touts and Mandimbandimba who had become a law unto themselves in the city.

Experience of Murambatsvina tells me Mandimbandimba will certainly be back with a bang! - Wellington Gadzikwa

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