Politicians’ acrobatic ways

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THEY have been rather long in coming, but now that the “small” matter of securing votes from the povo in national elections is out of the way and the short-term future of some politicians secured, the demolition of “illegal structures” appears well underway.

Editor’s Memo Stewart Chabwinja

Government yesterday reportedly lent bite to its increasingly menacing threats by demolishing illegally built housing structures and tuck-shops in Ruwa and Damofalls just outside Harare, warning the programme would be rolled out throughout the country in a style reminiscent of the infamous Operation Murambatsvina of 2005.

Fearing for the worst in Chitungwiza, Zanu PF supporters, most of whom benefited from illegal land deals engineered by party leaders, yesterday demonstrated against the demolitions in the town saying they constituted abuse of human rights. That might not be the most accurate way of putting it, but the abuse of desperate citizens at the hands of ruthless politicians is a familiar refrain locally and elsewhere.

In the minds of our politicians, the term “illegal structure” appears to have a definition with the malleability of putty and depends on, among other factors, the political season and ownership of the contentious structures. But if in this case illegal structure — as one would ordinarily expect — refers to constructions and settlements lacking council approval, the demolitionists have their work cut out.

They would have to ensure their list includes a growing number of unplanned settlements mushrooming right under the noses of councils and government, mostly stands parcelled out by vote-seeking politicians. These include Zanu PF stronghold Hopley Farm, a veritable dog’s breakfast, as is indeed virtual squatter camp Epworth where President Robert Mugabe once assured residents on the eve of an election that they would never be evicted.

The selective application of the law is nothing new. Back in the 1980s, as long as polls were not imminent, Zanu PF-dominated councils would slash maize cultivated on stream banks to avoid soil erosion and, in other areas, to prevent muggings by robbers hiding in dense maize fields. But as elections approached, urbanites would even be encouraged to cultivate open patches of council land “to supplement their domestic needs”, with assurances their crops would not be slashed.

But back to the current demolitions, while the random settlements and illegal structures are indefensible, what sadistic streak makes our authorities turn a blind eye to the offending settlements and structures, only to act when people have completed their structures? Should they not be demolished at the earliest opportunity and as a matter of routine?

Warning of the demolitions a few weeks ago Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo said the demolition of all illegal settlements had been necessitated by councils that had allowed settlements to expand without taking action to stop them. Government could not allow settlements with no proper ablution and other basic facilities at the illegal settlements with more than 10 000 people nationwide, he said. But it was the same Chombo who, at the end of last year when it was politically expedient given the high-stakes of national elections eight months away then, claimed demolitions of an illegal settlement near Epworth by Sunway City, which affected 200 families, was inhumane because affected residents were not offered alternative accommodation.

With a forked tongue, Chombo said: “If Sunway City felt that they had a strong case, that did not warrant leaving people to sleep in the open this rainy season.”
Talk about double-standards! For Chombo’s information, his ongoing demolitions will also leave people sleeping in the open as the rainy season is upon us unless, of course, he offers them “alternative accommodation”.

There is in all of this an important lesson for Zimbabweans about the devious nature of politicians: they will make promises they know they can’t keep or sustain, including parceling out residential stands whose tenure does not extend much beyond an impending election.

As Auguste-Maurice Barrès, a French novelist, journalist and politician once said: “The politician is an acrobat; he keeps his balance by doing the opposite of what he says.”

3 thoughts on “Politicians’ acrobatic ways”

  1. mapingu says:

    Fact is, majority of us Zimbo never learn. There is nothing new about this ZANU PF strategy – they have done it since 1980 but people continue to flock mindlessly for free dish-outs every few months before every other election. Our people are truly a useless lot – they gamble with their lives – yes other will be like to get way with free gifts forever we all know it. But surely we know majority will always lose after the election when ZANU PF turn around and start sing a totally different hymnal. So, in short most of those men & women who cry foul know it very well that ZANU can people are not trustworthy and only care about the next election, not human life. Once elections are over, that it. We all know it. Even these gamblers know it – if they claim not to know then they are dead neck-up. Essence, while ZANU officials are cruel and heartless people fro a fact many of us must also accept that – gambling is a dirty game, even what you call a win in gambling is very close to theft in most cases.

    Ngatishandeyi tizviwanire zvinhu zvedu pachena. Kwete kutamba makasa nevupenyu timhanyira mafufu emahara kubva kuvakuru veZANU towards elections. Hazvina hunhu kana chimuko izvozvo.

  2. Jingeni says:

    True kune vanodya zvemahara but remember for some of us we paid up to $7000 for a 300 sq metre stand to these people & thats not a freebie,wl Chombo stick to his word & make sure that we get back our hard earned cash & by the way what is govt’s housing policy?

  3. Mberengwa says:

    I blame the people. They should know better that there are processes to be followed to get a place in town. A town is not some village in Chief Chingoma in Mberengwa. There has to be order otherwise land in town became valueless. Imagine people building shacks in Borrowdale!

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