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Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Harare: First No Flowers, Now No Food


Robert Mugabe, president of Zimbabwe, has ordered the decimation of the nation’s capital, first the flowers and flower vendors, now the hungry residents and their vegetable gardens.


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Jason Moyo Street, Harare, Zimbabwe

(before the Flower Center was destroyed)

Photo: Courtesy of “Borrowdale Dan”

Does this look like “Trash” to you?

It’s Harare, Zimbabwe’s flower market in Africa Unity Square, a landmark in the city center, busy and beautiful for more than 50 years. Now it’s gone.

President Mugabe’s police destroyed the flower market last month as part the dictator’s “Operation Murambatsvina, or Drive Out Trash.” Mugabe and his henchmen call this urban renewal.

The Zimbabwe Independent responded with outrage after the vendors were brutalized and their flowers destroyed May 21.

“There is admittedly much crime and grime that needs to be addressed in the inner city. But the flower sellers in Africa Unity Square were not part of the problem,” said the editorial. It noted that “the burgeoning informal sector is a reflection of (the) government’s failure to nourish and sustain a viable formal sector.” People are surviving through folk economics, because Zimbabwe’s mainline economy has shuttled between non-existence and corruption.

Yesterday we learned that Mugabe is not satisfied to dispossess flower sellers. His latest move is destroying vegetable gardens in the city. The Harare police are now “targeting the homes and livelihoods of the urban poor to the vegetable gardens they rely on for food, saying the crops planted on vacant lots are damaging the environment.”

Flowers are “trash”? Squash plants are “damaging to the environment”?

Oskar Wermter, a Roman Catholic priest in Harare, calls Mugabe’s actions “insane and evil.” Wermter reports that his parish neighborhood is filled with “tiny children and people dying of AIDS” sleeping on the streets. These aren’t ornamental gardens but sustenance. Without their produce, people in Harare will not eat.

“The United Nations estimates the (Mugabe) campaign has left at least 1.5 million people homeless in the winter cold. Police say more than 30, 000 have also been arrested, most of them street vendors.” Zimbabwe has 144% inflation, 80% unemployment and is suffering from drought. Famine is at hand.

Many say that Mugabe is out to punish his opponents. Spokespeople for the Movement for Democratic Changes say that the 81-year-old Mugabe plans to drive “urban voters back to rural areas for ‘re-education,’” a la Cambodia’s Pol Pot, plowman of “the killing fields.”

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Photo: NewZimbabwe.com

Take a look at these two aerial photographs of Harare: April 18 at left, June 4 at right. The capital, its people, buildings, and plants, have been hit by a human tsunami, named Robert Mugabe.



Posted by Julie on 06/28 at 01:07 PM
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