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The politics of suffering


CHITUNGWIZA — A car-guarding business in the dormitory town of Chitungwiza, some 30km south of the capital Harare, thrived for about four months until Zimbabwe’s acrid party politics intervened.

Maxwell Dzama (26), along with 10 of his friends, turned two acres of land into a community enterprise that guarded commuters’ cars overnight. At a time when unemployment levels stood in excess of 80%, the business provided participants a daily income of $50 each.

But the business ended in August 2012 after youths — allegedly linked to President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF party —
assaulted three guards, torched the guardhouse and tore down the perimeter fencing.

“The youths who destroyed our car-guard business told us that they would not tolerate any project run by people from the
MDC-T. They were sent by their leaders, who are jealous that the MDC-T is making attempts to help poor people earn a living,” Dzama said.

“What they are doing is very unfair and inhuman. Our business had brought us much hope as we could afford to earn decent wages. As you can see, we are now back on the streets with nothing to do,” he said.

Ahead of parliamentary and presidential elections, the sabotaging of businesses and projects affiliated with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC-T has grown increasingly widespread. The polls are scheduled for 2013, but no date has yet been set.

The unity government of the MDCs and Zanu PF was formed in 2009 following the violent and disputed elections the previous year.
Politics of destruction

In another Chitungwiza suburb, beneficiaries of an MDC-T supported poultry project allege Zanu PF supporters closed the operation down.
“About 100 residents were each given 50 day-old chicks to rear and start their own poultry projects.

“The MP also helped us build fowl runs at our places of residents or on land sourced from the council, but when the Zanu PF activists learned about it, they came and violently took away the chicks from all of us,” said Nancy Foroma (30), an unemployed single mother.

“These people enjoy seeing us suffer. There is so much poverty here and it was hoped that the poultry project would help youths and families fend for themselves. What kind of politics is it that thrives on seeing people starve or beg?” she asked.

This is the second time in a year that Foroma has fallen victim to commercial sabotage. She said Zanu PF members also closed down a piggery project in rural Seke District, about 40km south of Harare, where she and others had been rearing 25 pigs for sale.

The incidents have been reported to the police and the names of the perpetrators disclosed, but no arrests have been made.

Thabani Nyoni, spokesperson for Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, an umbrella organisation for about 350 NGOs, said the disruption of self-help projects was “rampant and tragic”.

“It is extremely disturbing that politics is being used to perpetuate the cycle of poverty.

“We are aware of many cases whereby humanitarian and development interventions by NGOs, politicians and civil society are being disrupted because those that attempt to do the livelihood-promoting projects are deemed agents of regime change and enemies of Zanu PF,” Nyoni said.


Piniel Denga, the MDC-T MP for Mbare one of Harare’s most deprived areas, said spending the $50 000 constituency-development fund was difficult because of the threat of sabotage

“I have a number of projects, ranging from water and sanitation, education to healthcare that I have been intending to carry out since 2008 when I became MP of Mbare, but Chipangano is frustrating my efforts.”

Chipangano is alleged to be a Zanu PF-supporting youth militia in Mbare. They are said to extort money from vendors and public transport operators with impunity.

“I know that the terror group is being used by my political rivals in Zanu PF who do not want me and the MDC-T to get credit for developing the constituency. Community members are the real victims,” Denga said. Mbare has been affected by water-borne diseases in recent years, but after five boreholes were drilled, the Chipangano took control of two and vandalised the the three, Denga reported.

They have hoisted Zanu PF flags over the two working boreholes, where they provide water to residents with Zanu PF membership cards. Those without are charged $1 per bucket.

Denga said: “These people in Zanu PF are celebrating poverty. They do not care about development but their own political power.

“They fear being exposed if real development takes place. Mbare is one of the poorest suburbs in the country and some people would rather have it that way because it makes them stronger.”

The Zanu-PF national spokesperson Rugare Gumbo said: “I am not aware that our members are sabotaging other people’s projects.
However, as a party we urge people to tolerate each other and live harmoniously.”


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