19 May 2015 marks 10 years since the Government of Zimbabwe’s programme of mass forced evictions, locally know as Operation Murambatsvina (Operation Drive Out Rubbish). According to the United Nations, some 750 000 people lost their homes and businesses in the widely-condemned programme. Ten years on, the affected people have not accessed effective remedies, have not been compensated for their loss and thousands allocated plots of land under the Operation Garikai/Hlalani kuhle (Good living) live in settlements with no basic services, schools, clinics and were driven deeper into poverty. Farai Machena* had his home destroyed. Here, he shares his own experience.
Operation Murambatsvina started on 19 May 2005 in other areas, but reached our settlement of Hatcliffe Extension on 27 May. On that sad day, state security agents moved into our community and physically removed my family from our home before pulling down the structure we had built. We had been living in Hatcliffe Extension since 1993. My home was destroyed by the government despite the fact that it had actually settled us there. We had a lease agreement officially recognising our occupation of the property.
After our homes were destroyed we were left in the open for days during the beginning of Zimbabwean winter. We were later taken to a holding camp at Caledonia Farm on the outskirts of Harare where life was terrible – the services were extremely stretched, children dropped out of school, we did not have enough food, shelter or toilets.
Operation Murambatsvina marked the beginning of a new phase in our lives. It started with promises by the government for a better life under Operation Garikai. Government promised to build better houses. However, most of us ended up in tents. The government gave us four wooden poles and four metal roofing sheets. From these we were supposed to rebuild our destroyed homes. To add pain to injury, government said we had been evicted in error since we had Lease Agreements. We were told that we could go back to the same plots that our homes had been destroyed. Well-wishers gave us plastic material to construct shelter with. All privacy was lost as family members shared the little living space.
The situation has not improved 10 years on. We are still languishing in extreme poverty, surviving from hand to mouth. The majority of the over 20 000 people living in Hatcliffe Extension have no source of income. Operation Murambatsvina made worse an already desperate situation.
Operation Murambatsvina robbed us of our sources of livelihood. Today development or progress in our beloved mud city, Hatcliffe Extension, as it is affectionately known, is non-existent.
Despite the existence of a national housing policy and a Constitution that prohibits arbitrary evictions, we continue to live with the fear of another forced eviction.
I cannot stop thinking of what my community lost. Living in an independent Zimbabwe, I am yet to enjoy any benefits of independence. My education was disrupted by the forced evictions. Our lives have not improved. All I know is suffering. I have to struggle for everything.
During Operation Murambatsvina, despite the destruction and the accompanying suffering, we actually had some flicker of hope. For a moment we thought that it was just a matter of time before our longtime dream of adequate housing was fully realised. Little did we knew that it was like that moment after a long walk in a desert that you lift up your head and see something you mistake for an oasis, you gather your last strength thinking that you will soon quench your thirst only to realise that it was something else.
The forced eviction has also exposed young people in my community to exploitation. As a young person living in Hatcliffe Extension I feel that people are not being afforded the opportunity to participate in development issues that affect our community. We have become victims of exploitation from opportunistic political parties, politicians and pseudo-development agents who masquerade as liberators of the youth.
Young people’s voices are ignored resulting in disempowerment. The situation of young people makes me recall Paulo Freire, who says ‘to liberate the oppressed without their reflective participation in the act of liberation (is equivalent) to treating them as objects which must be saved from a burning building; it is to lead them into the populist pitfall and transform them into masses which can be manipulated.”
As young people in Hatcliffe Extension we want to participate in our community on an equal footing with other stakeholders. We were all affected by the forced evictions. We have the passion, zeal, enthusiasm, and a deep motivation to transform our situation. There is no dignity in begging. We want to be able to support our own families.
*not his real name
Amnesty International has been campaigning against mass forced evictions in Zimbabwe since 2005. We are campaigning for effective remedies for the survivors, including access to basic services such as healthcare and education.
You should walk down First Street in Harare just before summer starts. You should smell the scent of the purple jacaranda flowers, it is a mixture of petrol and sugar, a scent that excites my senses. You should meet a Zimbabwean vendor at Avondale flea market, trying to sell you a wooden knobkierie of NyamiNyami , the River God. His charisma only will make you part with your hard-earned 25 dollars. His humour will make you want to know him more. He will tell you about Chido, his 14-year-old daughter with more brains than her father. He will tell you about her aspirations to study medicine at the University of Zimbabwe.
You should take a kombi from Fourth Street to the nearby town of Chitungwiza. You will hear about Tapiwa, Lisa’s boyfriend, who keeps calling her incessantly, checking if she has arrived at the bus stop yet so they can go and fondle each other under the Musasa tree before Lisa has to go home and start cooking. You will hear about how the electricity always goes off except on Mondays. You will see the whindi (conductor) paying off the traffic police more times than you can count.
You should take a walk down Sam Levy’s Village, a shopping paradise. There you will see people who do not experience water or electricity shortages. You will see people who have never used KK and Munga buses or any form of public transport. You will hear talk about Tin Roof and H2O, the hottest night spots in town. You will see teenagers who dress like Drake or Nicki Minaj, children who look like they stepped off the pages of Vogue. You will meet people who do not know that Zimbabwe went through an economic crisis in 2008.
You should fly to Victoria Falls. There you will truly realise that nature’s beauty is ineffable. You will hear thunder that will remind you of twenty vuvuzelas being blown at once. You will meet people who have learnt to use their hands to craft masterpieces that travel the world. You will talk to the supermarket cashier who has never been to see the “beautiful” falls even though she has stayed in Victoria Falls all of her life.
You who think you are an expert on Zimbabwe’s political and economic situation. You who so causally paint a picture of hunger, strife and misery without having set foot in my country. You who are so ready to dish out advice from the comfort of your sofa on exactly what should be done to “change the course of Zimbabwe”. Visit us and we will show you all we have to offer. Only then, after you have come to know us, can you casually call us a shitty country.
Keith Mundangepfupfu is a student at The African Leadership Academy, who identifies himself as a writer and activist. He is currently chasing down his dream of becoming an author. Follow him on Twitter: @whiplash16
More than 2 000 Zimbabweans displaced by xenophobic attacks in South Africa have packed their bags for home. But Zimbabwe, a country teetering on the verge of economic collapse, is unlikely to offer them the means to restart their lives.
The attacks on foreigners – mainly Zimbabweans, Somalis, Malawians, Mozambicans and Nigerians – started in Durban more than two weeks ago following comments by Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini, suggesting that African migrants in South Africa were criminals who should go back to their countries and stop stealing jobs and opportunities from locals.
Machete- and gun-wielding South Africans burned foreigners’ businesses and homes, looting goods, and forcing their inhabitants to flee. Six foreign nationals died in the attacks, which spread from Durban to other parts of the country, including Johannesburg. The worst of the violence has, for the most part, subsided, but African migrants are well aware that they could re-surface at any time.
Several countries, including Malawi, Mozambique and Nigeria, have tried to evacuate their citizens from affected areas, but Zimbabwe, which has by far the largest number of nationals living in South Africa, is faced with the biggest challenge. Over years of political and economic upheaval in Zimbabwe, some 1.5 million Zimbabweans are thought to have made the trek south in search of safety and better opportunities. Zimbabwe has set up an inter-ministerial rescue taskforce to repatriate several thousand of them.
Labour and Social Welfare Secretary Ngoni Masoka told IRIN that the Zimbabwean government expected to receive some 2 400 returnees who had opted to return home following the attacks, but added the actual numbers returning could be higher.
“We are getting constant updates from our embassy in South Africa. There could be Zimbabweans who might have decided not to approach us for help for various reasons, so it is difficult to know how many are coming back exactly,” he said.
The first batch of 433 returnees arrived last week in government-provided buses at Beitbridge border post from a Durban transit camp where they were being housed following the attacks. According to Masoka, the taskforce is determining their needs, qualifications and destinations so they can be referred to provincial and district welfare officers for help with reintegration. The Zimbabwe Red Cross Society and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) are providing returnees with food and other essentials, while specialists are offering counselling and medical attention.
Masoka declined to say whether the government had set aside a budget for the returnees.
Under no illusions
Jairos Mangwanya (36) is under no illusions that life back at home will be easy. He was among the first batch of returnees last week, but decided to hitchhike to Harare, the capital, after becoming impatient with delays getting on a government bus. He left his pregnant wife and two other children to follow on the government-provided transport and went ahead to organise them some temporary accommodation.
Mangwanya had worked in Durban as a teacher for the past eight years. He fled with his family when Zimbabweans at a neighbouring house were attacked and their belongings looted.
“We didn’t have the time to pack our belongings because the attackers were coming to our house. We only took some blankets and clothes and fled to the police station. We left our passports, educational certificates, money and other vital belongings behind,” Mangwanya told IRIN.
“That means we have virtually nowhere to start from. I can’t look for another job without my certificates and I know it will be a long time before the examinations authorities and birth registration officials here can replace my documents.”
Finding a place for him and his family to stay in Harare will be tough. Space at his two brothers’ homes is already limited.
“My brothers say my wife and the two children will go to one of the houses and I to the other. That must be for a short period, though, because they also have large families and dependants from the extended family,” said Mangwanya.
The other option is to take the family to their rural home in Mount Darwin, some 200km away from Harare. But going there will greatly reduce his chances of being able to provide for his family or of his two children being able to attend school.
Mangwanya left South Africa before receiving his April salary and is likely to forfeit his pension and other employment benefits.
Trynos Musumba (41), who was travelling from Beitbridge with Mangwanda, had been working as a plumber in Durban and sending part of his earnings to his 70-year-old mother and unemployed sisters in Zimbabwe. He left his South African wife and four-year-old child behind in Durban.
“With my return, it means no one will be able to fend for my family here. My wife is not employed and she will find life tough. I might have to look at ways of going back to a safe city in South Africa and looking for another job,” he told IRIN.
His mother, who is diabetic, and the rest of the family live in rural Mhondoro, some 50km west of Harare. The area is one of many in the country to have suffered crop failure this year following poor rains.
“This is a very bad situation being made worse for the migrants,” said John Robertson, an independent economic analyst. “They fled Zimbabwe to look for better opportunities and are returning home to the very economic crisis they tried to run away from. The situation could actually be worse than when these people went away.”
He added that unofficially, unemployment in Zimbabwe is close to 80 percent, despite official figures putting it at 11 percent.
Japhet Moyo, secretary general of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), told IRIN: “Most of the companies have closed down and the few that remain are struggling. Worse still, government cannot absorb [those being laid off] because it doesn’t have the money to employ more people.”
Government too broke to help
Robertson said it was unlikely that the social welfare department would help the returnees in any meaningful way. “Our government has never had an unemployment benefit scheme or social security policy and is too broke to fund any intervention to help the returning Zimbabweans re-integrate. It will thus leave everything to the extended family, hoping that relatives will cushion the returnees.”
Musumba said that on the bus he took home with other returnees “many said they will never return to South Africa to look for jobs, but I know as soon as there is peace, they will go back because the situation in our country is so bad.”
Gabriel Shumba, a South Africa-based human rights lawyer who heads the Zimbabwe Exiles Forum (ZEF), said some 2 000 Zimbabweans remained in camps near Durban. Although churches, NGOs and the South African government are providing some aid, many are still in need of food, clothing, counselling and medical attention.
“The situation remains precarious. There is need for the humanitarian community to scale up support for the people in camps,” he told IRIN.
Shumba said his organisation was working to provide legal assistance to those who had been attacked or their property looted in an effort to ensure perpetrators could be arrested and brought to justice. South African authorities have a poor record of prosecuting perpetrators of past attacks.
He added that he did not believe repatriating victims to Zimbabwe was the answer, arguing that it “would embolden the attackers and encourage more attacks”.
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe on Wednesday launched a wide-ranging attack on Western colonisation in Africa and recent intervention in the Arab world, as he made his first state visit to South Africa in 21 years.
The veteran leader, 91, seized the opportunity of a televised press conference with President Jacob Zuma in Pretoria to lambast the United Nations Security Council, the United States and former colonial power Britain.
“We want a political environment in which we are not interfered with by outsiders and we become masters of ourselves in Africa,” Mugabe told reporters.
“We don’t think we are getting a fair deal at the United Nations.
“The five countries there who are permanent members… control the entire system.”
Mugabe said the developing world should stand together against the US, France and Britain, who make up three of five permanent members of the UN security council.
“They disturb the Arab world and leave (it) torn apart. Look at what they did to Libya,” he said, adding that US-led wars in Iraq revealed the “messy, reckless, brutal approach of the West”.
Mugabe, who is often accused of human rights abuses in Zimbabwe, said his state visit to Pretoria represented Africa’s victory over colonialists.
“Now we are our own people, and we have President Zuma here and President Mugabe in Zimbabwe – that is what what you fought for,” he said.
“African resources belong to Africa. Others may come to assist as our friends and allies but no longer as colonisers or oppressors, no longer as racists.”
Mugabe provoked laughter from some officials when he spoke about a statue of British colonialist Cecil Rhodes in Cape Town that has been vandalised in recent student protests.
Rhodes is buried in Zimbabwe, which was called Rhodesia until independence in 1980 when Mugabe came to power.
“We are looking after the corpse. You have the statue of him,” Mugabe said. “I don’t know what you think we should do – dig him up? Perhaps his spirit might rise again.”
Mugabe, who was accompanied by his wife Grace, hopes his visit to South Africa will drum up foreign investment to revive his nation’s moribund economy.
Zimbabwe has been on a downturn for more than a decade due to low growth and high unemployment.
Zimbabwe’s economy entered a tailspin after the launch of controversial land reforms 14 years ago. By 2008, inflation had officially peaked at 231 million percent before the government stopped counting.
Zuma said a series of agreements signed on Wednesday would help both nations.
“The economies of the two countries are historically and inextricably linked,” he said. “Opportunities for deeper economic cooperation exist.”
Mugabe, who is the current chairman of the African Union, has visited South Africa in the past on working trips but has made no state visit since 1994.
His wife Grace is seen as one possible successor to her husband.
Former vice-president Joice Mujuru was long considered likely to take over, but she fell out with the veteran leader late last year and was sacked in December.
Mugabe will attend a bilateral business forum in Pretoria on Thursday.
Asking about them in polite society usually causes raised eyebrows and mumbles about their inappropriateness, but you don’t need to be a private detective to discover that they’re bought, sold and used almost anywhere you care to look on the continent.
At the same time though, the sale of sex toys is illegal in many countries where they’re being sold, although some governments don’t even bother putting the trade on the books, seemingly relying on social shame – which is fading fast – as a means of regulation. Nonetheless, even where selling them remains illegal, sex toys still manage to creep across the border.
Basically, what seems to be happening is that the governments are anti-sex toys, but the people aren’t. The internet has made it easier for anyone who wants a sex toy to bypass the law, but it is the importers who shoulder the risks, since they’re the ones likely to have their good seized at Customs. This probably accounts for the relatively high prices of sex toys in many countries.
So what does this mean for the continent’s sex toy trade, where there’s a market but being a supplier isn’t always something you can broadcast in public?
Countries such as Zimbabwe and Mauritius have actively said “no” to bedroom trinkets but, being popular holiday destinations, there are websites that offer tips on how to “sneak your sex toy in when going on holiday”.
The situation in a few countries:
South Africa says OK to a little sexual aid
Sex toys are very much legal in South Africa. But before you shout “Of course they are, it’s South Africa!”, you might be surprised to learn that it’s only in the last decade that it stopped being illegal for South Africans to manufacture or sell sex toys. We have the enlightened apartheid government for the Immorality Amendment Act of 1969 prohibiting the sale of any item “intended to be used to perform an unnatural sexual act,” an amendment apparently intended to prevent the use of dildos by lesbians. Gratifying to be able to report that South Africa now has one of the most liberal constitutional and legal frameworks in the world on matters sexual.
What that means in South Africa today is that you cannot throw a stone anywhere in the country without hitting an Adult World, its branches so dark and seedy (at least all the ones I’ve seen) that you worry you’ll catch an STD just walking in. If they own any chic, couples-friendly branches, I haven’t come across them yet, and don’t know anyone who has. (Incidentally, the chain, which has 60 stores nationwide, is currently embroiled in a tiff with the ANC for opening a store opposite Parliament in Cape Town.)
Adult World’s selection of products ranges from videos for all tastes (BDSM, lesbian porn, women in cheerleader outfits) all the way to 10-inch long replicas of male genitalia.
There are more tasteful shops around, such as the Whet Sensuality Emporium in Cape Town (more tasteful, no doubt, because it’s women- and couples-oriented; they even manufacture their own lubricant) whose owner also gives advice to couples in her consultation room. This is beautiful cream room decorated with orchids, lounge chairs and futuristic sci-fi sex toys that look like they travelled back in time from the year 2085.
There is also the annual Sexpo, showcasing the best of the best in terms of sex toys, clothing (costumes) and general erotica. Then there are clubs like the Pharoah Private Fantasy Club where they ask “Whats your flava?” Okay, I’m not sure if that has anything to do with sex toys, but I like their opening question. Not to mention the hundreds of online stores such as HoneyHoney and FemmeSensuelle.
Discreet unmarked packages
Taboo surrounding sex toys in Kenya has pretty much faded, especially in Nairobi where more and more sex shops are opening, offline (River Road is where to go, although be warned, it’s also where to go for anything from AK47s to fake death certificates or Harvard Masters certificates, printed while you wait, no less) and online. The latest to join the online fray is wittily called Bored of Men.
Kenyan laws prohibit the sale of pornography and “obscene materials,” but according to Nairobi lawyer Humprey Manyange, there is no law in Kenya that prohibits the sale, distribution or circulation of sex toys under the Penal Code or any other law. He added, though, that “…there should be caution on the mode of display and selling to avoid the disturbance of public peace and breach of public morality”.
Kenyans are spoilt for choice online with stores like Doctor Crocodildo, Pazuri Place (who claim to have delivered over 1 300 packages since 2009), RahaToys (“If you are in Nairobi, we send the delivery guy to bring the item to you” – now that’s service!) , The Secret Kenya and kenyasecrets.com (“the finest and biggest collection of sex toys in Kenya,” with same-day deliveries) – don’t ask me why my Kenyan brothers and sisters are in such a hurry to get hold of their sex toys. Door-to-door delivery and the more relaxed attitude towards sex toys means Kenyans no longer need to have their sex toys mailed in “discreet unmarked packages,” which was the case for years. Women are now spending up to 10 000ksh ($112) on vibrating bullets, but you also have shops like RahaToys where you can get a super stretchy gel erection ring for the low low price of 420 Ksh ($4) or a ‘Fetish Fantasy Series Door Swing’ for 5 590 Ksh.
And if you’re after a sex doll, you can get one of those, too.
Sex toys on the (not so open) market
In Zimbabwe, Vannessa Chiyangwa, the daughter of a well known businessman (who also happens to be a former Zanu-PF MP as well as a cousin of Robert Mugabe) caused tongues to wag not too long ago for holding sex toy auctions in Harare . If you’re going to sell them, might as well keep it classy with an auction. She also held peep shows whilst selling a selection of lingerie to further boost business. All of which was labelled “immoral” by government officials.
That enterprising lady’s case actually revealed a contradiction in the government’s official position on sex toys. According to Zimbabwe Revenue Authority’s director of legal and corporate services Florence Jambwa, the importation of the toys into the country is prohibited under the Customs and Excise Act. However, Censorship Board secretary Isaac Chiranganyika said whoever intended to import or trade in sex toys had to seek permission from the board. He also said, “Anyone who wants to do that business should first bring them [toys] to our offices for approval.” The Board’s staff members must test drive the products, after all. For quality control purposes, of course. But joking aside, this is confusing. It’s illegal to import sex toys but you must have your sex toys approved by the board before you’re allowed to sell the illegal imports? Perhaps the government is trying to encourage local sex-toy manufacturing.
According to this article in The Standard, people have been caught smuggling sex toys into Zimbabwe, and some of the main culprits have been foreigners attending the Harare International Festival of The Arts (Hifa). Apparently, it’s during the festival that officials confiscate the highest number of sex toys. Arty folk, eh? But seriously, this is probably an attempt to diss lefty Hifa with it’s “foreign” connections.
The board says they’ve kept all the vibrators and dildos impounded over the past two years (most of the sex toys are for use by women, but there are some ‘female organs’ among the contraband), a claim contradicted by Florence Jambwa who says they destroy all the sex toys they confiscate. Sounds like the Censorship Board members are having a whale of a time at home.
Sex dolls, door swings and same day delivery
If you read about Nigerians and their sex toys on This Is Africa recently, you probably assumed sex toys were legal in Nigeria. Nope. Contraband, according to government officials.
Nigerians might come over all abashed when you raise the topic in public, but sex toys are starting to become more popular in the country, even in the northern States that abide by Sharia law, but either government officials have enough wahala on their hands to add chasing after sex toy importers to the list or they know they’ll be onto a losing battle if they do.
The ownership of sex toys knows no age, social class or marital status barriers in Nigeria. In Lagos, one newspaper journalist found more than 20 shops selling sex toys (mostly small stalls), and one trader, who preferred to remain anonymous, said most of his customers were couples, with the male partners saying they preferred to have a toy as a “competitor,” rather than another man. On the other hand, another trader said she had to take her business online because people who had the “balls” to enter her shop just browsed a lot without buying much. Her sales went up by 120% with the move.
They reportedly saw this as “a sign of the end and the beginning of Sodom and Gomorrah” aka “Jesus is coming”.
According to the product specifications, the dolls’ skin texture was “99.8% human texture,” but with a price tag of $6 000 they’d better be, right? Clearly imported for the rich, these super dolls. What about the man on the street, I ask. The dolls last two years, are completely adjustable to any position, have a hundred sensors all over the body (including thirty in/on the private parts), get “wet,” and moan when penetrated. The “best money you will ever spend,” according to one man who is either the sole importer or a very, very happy customer. No wonder my Nigerian sisters were in an uproar.
One woman wondered “…what technology is turning the world into; even my husband saw it on the internet and he developed interest in it. My fear is if he gets it, it will be the end of our marriage.” Another was certain her husband would go for it, but said it was none of her business. One randy commenter said he’d forego a car to buy such a doll!
For those not wishing to sell or forego their car or break the bank, there’s Intimate Pleasures (Nigeria’s first online sex shop catering specifically to women), the owner of which, feminist writer and human rights activist Iheoma Obibi, also holds “Wellness and Intimacy” afternoon sessions.
There are shops selling sex toys in Ghana, offline (in Accra, at least; some street hawkers even sell them) and online (Area 51, GH erotic; you can even WhatsApp your order), though, again, the government considers sex toys “obscene” and has been known to close down sex shops. Women in Swaziland throw “product parties,” and have been calling on the government for years to legalise the sale of sex toys, stating that there’s no valid reason why women should be deprived of their inviolable right to choose how they pleasure themselves.
This appears to be a case of governments failing to move with the times, and to comprehend the reasonable desires of their citizens. I’m willing to bet that all the officials making it unnecessarily difficult to get hold of sex toys own sex toys themselves.
Governments, we want our sex toys, and we will get them any way we can, whether you like it or not!
Kagure Mugo is a freelance writer and co-founder and curator of holaafrica.org, a Pan-Africanist queer women’s collective which engages in activism and awareness-building around issues of African women’s identity, experiences and sexuality. Connect with her on Twitter: @tiffmugo