[Marxism] IMF Payment Shames West (Zimbabwe Herald)
calvinbroadbent at hotmail.com
Mon Nov 7 08:16:29 MST 2005
The British *Times* reported on 25th September that white SA farmers feared
a more aggressive land redistribution policy after the government
dispossessed a major white landowning family from its farm and handed the
land back to the descendants of its original black owners, and an end to
'willing seller, willing buyer' economics.
Is there anyone on the list who does not see Mugabe as a corrupt usurper of
the Zimbawean national liberation struggle or a puppet of South African
neoliberalism? Would it be better if the elected government were overthrown
LOUIS PROYECT WROTE:
I wonder what Fanon would have thought about destroying the shacks of poor
Zimbabwe is being hypocritically vilified
Posted: Friday, July 1, 2005
Monster of the moment
Zimbabwe is being hypocritically vilified by the west for forced slum
clearances that are routine throughout the developing world
By John Vidal, guardian.co.uk
For a month now, the BBC, CNN, ITV and others have been reporting what has
been portrayed as one of the greatest humanitarian and human rights
disasters in years. At least 200,000 people - sometimes this figure grows to
250,000 or even 300,000 - are said to have been forcibly evicted from slum
areas of Harare in Zimbabwe. The figure peaked last week at 1.5 million, but
yesterday the BBC reckoned that bulldozers were now "crashing through the
homes of 500,000 people".
In fact, only about 1.2 million people live in Harare and no one is
suggesting that half the population has fled in terror or that most of the
city has been wrecked. So where are all these allegedly terrorised people? A
few thousand have been filmed in makeshift camps but not many more. Who is
trying to count the numbers? They are almost always attributed to an unnamed
person in an unnamed UN agency. But read the only UN statement on the
evictions and it says nothing of 200,000 people.
The evictions - which are clearly happening on a wide scale - have been
seized on by the west, and the former colonial power Britain in particular,
as another reason to demonise President Mugabe and further humiliate
long-suffering Zimbabwe. It's open season on the Harare regime and it
appears that anyone can say anything they like without recourse to accuracy
or reality. Whipped into a frenzy of hypocritical outrage, the EU, Britain
and the US, as well as the World Bank - all of which have been responsible
for millions of evictions in Africa and elsewhere as conditions of
infrastructure projects - have rushed to condemn the "atrocities".
The vilification of Mugabe is now out of control. The UN security council
and the G8 have been asked to debate the evictions, and Mugabe is being
compared to Pol Pot in Cambodia. Meanwhile, the evictions are mentioned in
the same breath as the genocide in Rwanda and ethnic cleansing in the
Balkans - although perhaps only three people have so far accidentally died.
Only at the very end of some reports is it said that the Harare city
authority's stated reason for the evictions is to build better, legal houses
for 150,000 people.
Perspective is needed. The summary removal of people at gunpoint from their
homes is indefensible, almost certainly unnecessary, and probably
economically counter-productive, but it is not unusual in the developing
world. Every year millions of poor people are evicted to make way for
tourism, dams, roads and airports, for events like the Olympics, and for the
gentrification and beautification of cities, national parks and urban
Nor is it new. Forced evictions, brutal land grabs and slum clearances were
all used by Britain's own rulers in the past to enlarge their estates, build
bigger, more modern cities, construct reservoirs, make way for railways and
lay out fine parks and fashionable areas for the newly rich to live. Rapidly
developing countries are now doing the same as the rich world did during its
own industrial and urban development.
The difference is mostly in numbers. According to UN-Habitat, the
Nairobi-based agency that concerns itself with the urban environment,
hundreds of millions of the world's poor are technically illegal squatters
living in slum communities like those in Harare, liable to be moved on by
private landowners or by governments. In the past five years, slum clearance
programmes have forced more than 150,000 people out of their homes in Delhi;
300,000 people were evicted to make way for Olympic sites in Beijing;
100,000 were moved on in Jakarta; 250,000 were forced out of dam sites in
India; and as many as a million in Lagos and Port Harcourt in Nigeria. There
are many more.
Yet those who like to call themselves "the international community" say
nothing about these mass evictions and the world's press has been mostly
silent. For the World Bank to condemn the Zimbabwean evictions was
particularly rich. According to its own calculations, the bank has funded
projects that have required the eviction of at least 10 million people.
So why are the Harare slum clearances so different? As international monster
of the moment, Mugabe is unacceptable to Britain and the west mainly because
he has chosen to evict whites and redistribute land grabbed in colonial
times. The fact that the African Union and other African leaders are not
prepared to condemn him for the Harare evictions reflects the fact that
they, too, recognise the injustice of the colonial land ownership
inheritance and do not want to see Africa bullied again by the west.
But there may be another reason why African leaders have not condemned the
evictions. Urbanisation is overwhelming most African cities, which have been
flooded by impoverished people forced off the land. According to the UN's
2003 study of urbanisation and slums, the driving force behind the slums of
Africa and Asia is not bad governance or tyrants, but laissez-faire
globalisation, the tearing down of trade barriers, the privatisation of
national economies, structural adjustment programmes imposed on indebted
countries by the IMF, and the lowering of tariffs promoted by the World
Like every city in the world that has tried to clear its slums, Harare will
find that history repeats itself. This year, Zimbabwe faces massive food
shortages that will force more of the urban poor into destitution and drive
yet more people off the land into the cities to look for work. The poor,
punished for their poverty rather than for voting one way or another, will
become poorer and the shacks and shelters so brutally pulled down in the
past month will just go up somewhere else.
However, an alternative to forced evictions is emerging right under Mugabe's
nose. Last year, 250 homeless Zimbabweans, members of the Federation of Slum
and Shackdwellers, negotiated the provision of land from the city authority.
They have now planned the layout of their community, worked out the costs of
the homes and are ready to build. Where are they? Harare.
·John Vidal is the Guardian's environment editor
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