Just a Little Discomfort
After talking to the UN special representative about his "urban
project at State House, Mugabe was caught on camera saying "people have
expect a little discomfort in an exercise like this." That remark ranks
the one "if there is no bread, let them eat cake!" The person who said
soon lost her head in the French revolution. Perhaps that will happen
time as well!
What Mugabe has done in a well planned and ruthless exercise is to deny
millions of their sole means of making a living, I estimate a
million people are destitute and that this single act will further
national economic output this year. In his so-called "urban renewal"
exercise, he has destroyed an estimated 300 000 homes. In his eyes they
might have been unsightly shacks, but to the people who lived in them
were home. At least 1,5 million people are homeless as a result of this
exercise. Often carried out at night, frequently without warning, these
representatives of the absolute poor are now hungry, cold and homeless
because their government says they are "rubbish" to be swept away.
Last night it was very cold here in Bulawayo - well below freezing in
low-lying areas. Even now at midday it is cold and we have a fire in
house to try and warm things up a bit. I feel absolutely devastated for
those who have been affected by this Murambatsvina. Many of those
are HIV positive or even sick with Aids. They are short of food and
especially protein, their children are out of school and they have no
of making a living except through prostitution or crime.
Half a million children under 16 are affected, three quarters of a
women, hundreds of thousands of the elderly. Just a little discomfort!
Sitting in his State House with air conditioning and luxury. With no
shortages of any kind. A helicopter to take him wherever he wants to go
day or night, a luxury car with outriders - his new home at a cost of
least US$20 million. His homes in Harare, Zwimba and farms in many
the country. Several homes outside the country - just in case. Mugabe
not know the meaning of the word discomfort! Others call it genocide.
The urban renewal bit comes from a government task force hurriedly put
together to try and put a brave face on what they have done. This
of sycophants has stated that they are allocating 250 000 stands for
houses, spending Z$3 trillion on housing and will get the whole thing
in a few months. This from a regime that promised housing and health
by 2000. In the past decade they have built less than 1000 new homes
annum. Now suddenly, with a collapsed economy and no foreign exchange
are able to build 50 000 houses a month! It's a joke.
These guys could not organise a party in a beer hall, they cannot
fuel for the country, food supplies, even a supply of matches, how on
are they going to replace the 300 000 homes they have just knocked
Even if they do - who can afford the price tag of Z$100 million for a
four-roomed house on 600 square feet of land? The answer is very few -
especially now that the State has stolen their assets and closed down
This exercise in ruthless futility has at least done one positive thing
has given the huge G8 campaign, led by Blair and others, a real focus.
want to know what is wrong in Africa - look at Mugabe. You want to know
we are poorer than we were in 1960. Look at Mugabe. You want to know
aid, debt relief and trade opportunities are not going to be the
they hope for - look no further than Mugabe. The other thing that it
achieved though is that it has rattled Pretoria.
In a few days Thabo Mbeki is off to Scotland to meet the great and
and to plead the case of Africa for a new start. He is going to have to
begin with a recount of what he has done since he stood on the lawns in
Pretoria with G W Bush and accepted that as far as Zimbabwe was
he was the point man. He was the man with the responsibility of
an end the crisis here that has cause so much damage to the region and
Africa in the past 5 years.
As he goes, there is a guided missile waiting for his aircraft and it
come from an unexpected quarter. It will be fired by diminutive
woman who is the head of the UN agency Habitat from the roof of the UN
Headquarters in New York. This missile will confirm the situation here
have set out in this letter. It will confirm the human suffering and
crisis that it has created. It will follow hard on the heels of another
seeking missile fired by James Morris last week in which he said the
situation in Zimbabwe is evolving rapidly into the gravest humanitarian
crisis in the world today. Furthermore, both missiles will target
his cohorts as being at the core of the problem.
As if this was not enough, the Mugabe regime this week mounted yet
attack on what remains of the economy. They slated the Impala Platinum
and Smelter at Chegutu for a forced transfer of assets to the Chinese.
only is this the largest single investment in the country since 1980,
forms the foundation of a new industry for the country that could
the economy. It also constitutes a strategic outreach for the massive
African mining houses in their efforts to retain control of the global
market for platinum, the metal of the future in an oil dependent world.
other threat could have been more designed to concentrate the minds in
Pretoria and Johannesburg.
And so the MDC gets a call - please come and see us urgently, we have a
things we would like to talk about with you. Perhaps this time they
take the interests of the region and the people of Zimbabwe seriously
embark on a long awaited exercise to bring sanity back to this small
of planet earth. Certainly living here is a bit like being confined to
psychiatric facility where the inmates are actually in charge and the
and the saints, the inmates. Maybe, just maybe, that is about to change
in the meanwhile we go back to doing the hardest part - offering these
unspeakable people, the other cheek.
Bulawayo, 4th July 2005