By Pedzisai Ruhanya
AT a time when the economic and political situation in Zimbabwe is worsening due to the continued legitimacy and governance crisis the country is facing, President Mugabe’s governme
nt has decided to embark on yet another anti-people and undemocratic policy, Operation Murambatsvina.
There are a plethora of issues behind this madness. One such theory is that since the February 2000 constitutional referendum and the subsequent electoral frauds when the government lost the hearts and souls of the majority of Zimbabweans to govern legitimately, the ruling Zanu PF party realised that an uprising was inevitable and inescapable.
To deal with the revolutionary infrastructure that it created in towns and cities due to job losses, company closures, fuel shortages, food shortages and the general human rights abuses associated with its Machiavellian rule, the government came up with a host of colonial-type laws such as the Public Order and Security Act (Posa), Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Aippa) and the Broadcasting Services Act (BSA).
At the bottom of these fascist laws was the desire by government to continuously diminish the gains of the liberation struggle and subsequently the democratic space. This led to the closure of four newspapers in a record space of three years. Indeed the closure of the Daily News, the Daily News On Sunday, The Tribune and The Weekly Times was part of the scheme.
The idea was to deny Zimbabweans alternative sources of news and views and make sure that what the government was doing could not be properly and adequately exposed to public debate and scrutiny on a daily basis.
In the wisdom of the regime, such moves were not adequate to contain the rising levels of social and political disenchantment caused by its 25 years of uninterrupted rule and the abuses associated with it. The cities, towns and growth points, because of the levels of poverty caused by the government’s ill-conceived policies, were ripe for a revolution and to deal with this, Mugabe came up with the so-called Operation Murambatsvina.
The operation is meant to decongest the urban centres that have been the
driving force behind most modern uprisings against dictatorships the world over. The government had to remove people in flea markets and other structures in the residential suburbs so that in the event of an uprising like the 1998 food riots, it will be able to quell the disturbances because of low population.
The government also pre-empted what it saw as an inevitable uprising. Instead of people organising themselves to resist and possibly revolt, they are now looking for shelter and food. That is how a dictatorship operates. It is very uncomfortable with a mobilised citizenry.
The government through its spin doctors and the attached intelligentsia like Tafataona Mahoso know fully well that the lumpen proletariat, that is the people who have lost their jobs and continue to live in abject poverty and have nothing to lose, are the ones who fight in most revolutions. That’s why some people are wondering why the government has been so ruthless against the poor. It is protecting itself against a population it has denied basic human rights, food and shelter through its misguided policies such as the chaotic fast-track land resettlement programme.
In short, the government has gone back in history and learnt that the urban poor working class and the lumpen proletariat led the French and Russian revolutions as well as the struggle for Independence in Zimbabwe.
Another explanation to the current operation that has led to a man-made humanitarian crisis is the succession politics in Zanu PF and the 2008 presidential election. Zanu PF has learnt from the 2002 disputed presidential election that it has no capacity to win a free and fair poll.
The evictions of people in the urban areas where Zanu PF has failed to capture meaningful votes since 2000 is meant to disenfranchise millions of perceived opposition voters.
The government is fully aware that it will be difficult for these people to find themselves back on the voters roll in the event that they are driven into the rural areas. It is not easy for people to register in rural areas if the traditional leaders and Zanu PF structures do not know them. The government is also fully aware that the people it has driven into poverty will not make voter registration a priority. In this respect the ruling party wants to get even minimal gains from such an exercise.
Unlike in the past elections, particularly the 2002 presidential poll where the ruling party was united under the candidature of President Mugabe, it would not be the same when Mugabe leaves office. That was seen last year when Zanu PF officials who were associated with Emmerson Mnangagwa’s ascent to the presidency were either fired or demoted from their positions in the party.
Structurally, Zanu PF was left at its weakest point and were it not for electoral malpractices, the party could have lost the poll. However, those who support Vice-President Joice Mujuru’s faction have realised that it is a minority in Zanu PF with no capacity to wrestle power in any future presidential election.
To deal with its inherent weaknesses, that faction has come up with the operation as one way of dealing with the urban voters. Unfortunately, this will be its undoing because Operation Murambatsvina has affected even the supporters of the ruling party particularly those who were involved in housing cooperatives and invaders of peri-urban farms.
It is also possible to suggest that the current inhuman treatment of the urban poor could be a deliberate programme by the government and Zanu PF officials to push people onto farms to provide cheap labour. This seems so because there have been utterances by Zanu PF officials that there was shortage of labour in the farms.
For instance in May, Solomon Mujuru appeared on ZTV saying he had made arrangements with the Ministry of Justice and the Prison Service authorities to construct a prison in Mashonaland East province so that he and others within the rank and file of Zanu PF could get cheap labour on their farms.
This argument is not remote given the tendency by indigenous farmers of wanting to get 100% profits without necessarily looking into the welfare of their employees.
It is naivety to assume that Zanu PF has good intentions with the current operation because history has taught us that when Mugabe says something on crucial national issues, the opposite of what he says will be true.
We remember what he said when the government lost the constitutional referendum in February 2000 when he admitted government’s loss and publicly called for calm and peace. Immediately after that speech, he unleashed an orgy of violence against farmers and opposition elements perceived to have caused his humiliation.
*Pedzisai Ruhanya is former deputy news editor of the Daily News and currently is the team leader for the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition.