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Monday, December 5, 2016
Zimbabwe: where mothers risk prison to feed families
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 She had her home destroyed by "Murambatsvina". She braved the cold nights of June and July sleeping in the open, with her children. She lost her ncome when she was barred from informal trading. But she fought back. She went back to her trading, first trying her luck in Mozambique. She found some friends and squeezed in with them after months out in the open. She served her customers behind closed doors since police keep harassing traders. She is absolutely determined to pay for the education of her two teenage sons. Last Sunday evening the police caught up with her when she was cooking and selling sadza. She was held for two days and nights in a filthy stinking police cell, reeking of urine, dirty with human waste. If the authorities are so concerned about hygiene and public health, why is refuse not removed in Mbare? Why are people held in such filthy police cells? This woman is not a criminal. She would be quite happy to operate legally. But the fees charged for trading licences are exorbitant. Only big business people can pay that kind of money and still make a profit. The little people like this mother have no choice but to operate illegally if they want to survive. Do they not have the right to keep their families alive? A starving person is permitted to take what is needed to keep him/her alive; the Church, for one, has always been saying so. Police enter even homes and take away anything they think is for trading. On top of that, people are fined heavily. A supporter of "Murambatsvina", writing to the editor of the "Daily Mirror", 9th February, wants "another operation targeted at the squatters". Whom does he mean by "squatters" anyway? Fellow citizens who lost their homes through "Murambatsvina", lodgers who never owned a home because the government housing policy failed? "Remove squatters to save us from Cholera," the writer ends his letter because he does not want "filth to return to Mbare." He sounds as if the homeless to him are "filth". This is the language of inhumanity. Is our society totally devoid of compassion? Do we no longer recognise our common humanity? A teacher learnt from an essay written by one of his pupils about the total destitution of his homeless family who seek refuge at night in a corridor of one of the many hostels in Mbare. He sends us a message: can the church help? They need food urgently, the child is obviously starving. This family of five parents and three teenage children used to live with the husband's parents in an outbuilding. That was destroyed by "Murambatsvina". The wife promptly went to register the family's name for a stand on which to build a family home. Hundreds of people went to queue for such registrations at the time, each paying $ 120,000. No one has heard anything about it since. Now the family parents and children - sleeps in one room. Who has ever heard of anything so improper? But this is just one of many such families. This is what "Murambatsvina" has done and is still doing to people. It is destroying our families and our family culture. But the real obscenity is that the people who ordered the "cleaning up" of Mbare, throwing thousands into misery, build themselves palaces. Naome used to sleep in a park near the city centre until she was chased away. Recently she joined the homeless sleeping near the central bus terminus in Mbare. There she met Mrs Chapera. For helping her sell food to travellers she was given a place to sleep. Naome, 14 years old, was born in Zimbabwe, but her father was from Zambia, the mother from Nigeria. Both parents died when she was still small. A Nigerian family took her in and taught her to speak English, though she never went to school. Her Shona is not so good, and she is shy to speak it, which adds to her loneliness and isolation. The Nigerians went back home and left her stranded. A small band of caring people are trying to find out more about her and how to help her. She is just another "squatter", another bit of "filth" our friendly Mirror reader wants "evicted" and "removed". Whereto, for heaven's sake? Whereto? Lord, have mercy, we pray, Lord have mercy because your people haven't. Comment from The Zimbabwean, 3 March /ZW News
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