Robert Mugabe has set out to chase the poor out of the cities and into concentration camps, the London Telegraph reports, by bulldozing their houses and leaving them homeless. Unfortunately for a few Zimbabweans, Mugabe’s bulldozer squads don’t feel particular about checking to see if the houses are empty first, resulting in the crushing deaths of at least two babies in the past two weeks:
“The police came. They had been sent to destroy the house,” said Herbert Nyika, Charmaine’s father. “They knocked down the building, the walls; they smashed everything. This was when our child was trapped inside. She died there.” Her mother, Lavender, said: “I blame the government because it is they who instructed the police to do what they did. It is terrible. I have lost my daughter in such a strange way.”
She added: “Of course they have managed to clean up the city but at the same time they have brought suffering to the people – property destruction, homelessness and now the death of a child.”
The family is poor and their home was a small building in the back garden of a bigger house.
The Zimbabwean government has spent the past few years targeting white farmers, those with land and wealth; now it seems to be picking on the poor.
The Zimbabwean press yesterday admitted that two toddlers had died in the demolition drive – Charmaine, two, who died two weeks ago, and Terence Munyaka, 18 months, who died on Sunday from head injuries. As outrage rose around the world, the Zimbabwean police called on its officers to exercise more care. In London Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, said on behalf of the G8 countries: “We call on the government of Zimbabwe to abide by the rule of law and respect human rights.”
Every day in Harare, in Bulawayo, in the towns and cities of Zimbabwe, police in riot gear are systematically moving from suburb to suburb forcing people from their homes. Bulldozers with their buckets raised are silhouetted on the skyline.
The scale of the clearance is so great there is too much work for the police to do – they are now forcing the people to destroy their own homes, or charging them a fee for demolition. On the roads are wheelbarrows piled high, trucks overloaded with cupboards, beds, mattresses – thousands and thousands of people making their way somewhere, but there is nowhere to go. Many are living in the open – their furniture arranged around them as if the walls were still there.
With the poor transformed into homelessness by Mugabe’s decree, the local charities and churches have been overwhelmed by refugees, while the cities must use force to push the newly destitute off of what used to be their land. The Telegraph followed some of them as they went off to farms seized by Mugabe from white landowners and where the agricultural basis for the nation’s economy has since died. The motive isn’t to restart the farming system that Mugabe destroyed by chasing off the farmers who knew what they were doing, but apparently to create refugee camps that will keep any rebellious movements away from the cities, where they could coalesce and create a real survival problem for the dictator.
Like so many modern dictators, Mugabe has decided to simply kill or dislocate as many of his potential opponents as possible. Whether they die of malnutrition, exposure, disease, or other means matters little, just as long as they die and do so as invisibly as possible. If that means that a few toddlers have to get crushed to death under his bulldozers … so be it.