GOVERNMENT is planning to kick homeless people off the streets of major towns and cities to airbrush the scale of poverty in the country in anticipation of an influx of tourist arrivals.
The plan, which also entails getting rid of street vendors, has been met with resistance from human rights organisations.
Buoyed by President Robert Mugabe’s elevation to the chairmanship of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union (AU), Harare is anticipating an upsurge in visitors.
Normally, chairing nations hosts extraordinary summits for both blocs, which means that Zimbabwe will be playing host to SADC and AU summits when they become due
Taken from Financial Gazzette
For years, Zimbabwe has been failing to find solutions to the street kids menace in central business districts of major towns and cities.
The problem is fast turning into a social nightmare with children from poor backgrounds pouring into the streets in order to survive.
Of late, politicians have also sanctioned vending in the streets, turning the capital into one huge vending site.
Concerned by the country’s image in the wake of its new found status in the international community, government officials are trying to tame the chaos.
Last week, government launched a cleanup campaign in Harare with Local Government Minister, Ignatius Chombo, pushing for the removal of vendors and street dwellers from the streets with immediate effect arguing they were compromising health standards.
“Government agencies together with local authorities are going to be the enforcement agents with immediate effect. There should be no vending on road pavements, traffic intersections, road islands and in front of shops and offices,” Chombo said.
Alternative accommodation would be sought for the homeless, according to Chombo.
The move has already set the government on a collision course with human rights activists who feel that street dwellers must not be sacrificed to give the false impression of a clean country.
Previous displacements by government have not helped the situation because of lack of alternative living space and provisions of means of sustenance.
Human Rights NGO Forum director, Abel Chikomo, said government should not punish people for being poor.
He observed that at one point, the City of Harare wanted to move these people but they allowed them to stay because they served a certain political purpose.
“That is the problem with populist governance,” he said.
“We will certainly resist such a move. We know there are no prior plans to properly shelter these people judging from the past, we know they are going to be moved to wherever only God knows, and that is unacceptable. We cannot do things just because we now chairthe AU and we suddenly want to paint the false picture of a clean city. We have a very dirty country. Let our fellow African brothers come and see what really we are,” he added.
Analysts said the government must concern itself with the root causes for those problems to tackle the problem, not this cosmetic fix to create a false impression.