Clean-up should’ve started with govt itself

By Bill Saidi

ONE choice epithet in the aftermath of the recent orgy of destruction: the most illegal structure today is the government.



erif”>This is a reference to the 2000 parliamentary and the 2002 presidential elections. As a result of how the government conducted those polls, it lost friends right, left and centre. The land reform fiasco may have been a prime element.


But if there had been no disgust with the bare-faced rigging of the two elections, President Robert Mugabe and his colleagues might have escaped the black lists which restrict their international travel today.


Even people accustomed to Zanu PF’s zany ways wondered at the destruction: whose wet dream was this?


The clean-up of the central business district made eminent sense. Harare had become a veritable dump, with some visitors asking: What kind of tsunami hit the city?


But even with the compliments came the indictment: It was so sudden, so brutal and so vengeful, it had to be political.


Which is where some people wondered if it was someone’s wet dream.They figured someone so filled with vengeance against the urban dwellers for voting for the MDC in the last election thought to gratify his perverse desire for revenge on what they felt were the urban ingrates.


They had it so good, didn’t they? Building houses where they wanted, buying and selling anything they wanted, anywhere they wanted. And how do they reward Zanu PF? They give the party a mighty kick in its electoral teeth.


For some, the comparison with the farm invasions of 2000 was irresistible. Zanu PF, for them, was continuing its time-worn policy of Shoot First, Second and Third and Don’t Ask Questions.


As with the farm invasions, any plan to deal with the aftermath of the orgy was an afterthought.


If there had been a well-prepared plan, the savagery would have been needless. There would have been prior consultation.


The destruction of the flea markets in Harare was so comprehensive, cynics thought they saw a Chinese hand behind it. Their theory was: the zhing-zhong trade was not doing well and the flea markets were to blame.


It was a far-fetched theory, but the destruction was so total people spent futile hours flailing the air for a rational explanation.


To many politically savvy analysts, the government has messed up since Independence. It would be fair to say, in one or two cases, Mother Nature refused to help… There was little to be done about the droughts. Yet the droughts did not begin after 1980. As far back as 1947, yellow maize was imported from Kenya when the rains failed.


Inevitably, the people called it “Kenya”.


But Zanu PF’s talent for messing up scaled new heights in 2000, after what their detractors called their biggest blunder yet – the violent farm invasions – a bigger blunder than the Gukurahundi massacres, some say.


At the head of the invasions were the war veterans, the malcontents led by the late Chenjerai “Hitler” Hunzvi, aided and abetted by Mugabe himself.

Among the illegal structures demolished around Harare were so-called housing co-operatives initiated by the war veterans.


After 2000, the war veterans gained enormous presence in Zanu PF. Most of their acts were condoned. They invaded private companies, vandalising their assets.


There are war veterans today living like kings, overnight billionaires who profited from the looting. Zanu PF held them in such awe their demands were granted without question. They were almost the de facto government.


Initial reports linked the bombing of the Daily News printing press in 2001 to the war veterans. A few days earlier, they had staged a rowdy protest march at the newspaper’s offices along Samora Machel Avenue.


But the investigations into the explosion, which reportedly featured deadly limpet mines, petered out a few weeks later. To this day, the police’s standard response to inquiries is: “Investigations are continuing.”


Most of our economic problems can be traced back to that single act of lunacy, as some critics have called it – the farm invasions.


It started when Mugabe publicly defied a court order to have the veterans removed from the farms. That, for many, was the genesis of lawlessness.

The poverty which drove people to construct illegal structures and trade in contraband was caused partly by the economic isolation resulting from the farm invasions.


In 25 years, Zanu PF has gambled with the goodwill of a peace-loving people.


They have gambled with the goodwill of foreign governments which respected Zimbabwe as a bastion of democracy, in spite of a long, bitter, bloody war of freedom.


Dictatorship, corruption, cronyism, police brutality and arrogance have blighted that image. Mugabe pulled Zimbabwe out of the Commonwealth. If, by this precipitous act, he hoped to destroy that multi-racial grouping of former British colonies, then he must now acknowledge utter failure. He must have hoped for a massive Afro-Asian walk-out.


But not one of them quit. The pull-out was totally without meaning, politically. The Commonwealth remains intact and not even the staunchest supporters of Mugabe’s racist rhetoric have left the grouping.


Mugabe’s refusal to face reality -to accept that he has outlived many people’s political generosity and should get real – is what drives his party to engage in the sort of senseless orgy of violence that results in thousands of citizens being thrown into desolation.


*Bill Saidi is editor of the Daily News On Sunday.

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