Zim soccer heroes given cleared land

Members of Zimbabwe’s football team are being rewarded for winning a regional tournament with plots of land cleared of township homes.

The team, known as the Warriors, won the Confederation of Southern African Football Associations (Cosafa) Cup on Sunday with a surprise 1-0 victory over Zambia in Mabatho, South Africa.

As a token of appreciation, the government will hand over 18 residential plots, the deputy minister of urban development, Morris Sakabuya, said.

The plots were cleared during June and July as part of Operation Murambatsvina (Shona for Operation Drive Out Rubbish) in which the government demolished the homes of thousands of poor Zimbabweans. Ironically, several members of the team were affected by the demolitions.

A UN report charges that 700 000 people lost their homes or jobs as a result of the campaign.

Jonathan Mashingaidze, the Zimbabwean Football Association’s chief executive, said he hoped more land would be made available for other squad members if the team qualified for next year’s African Nations Cup finals in Egypt.

“We can’t have our ambassadors living in slums and shacks,” he said.

The announcement came ahead of a visit starting on Monday by an International Monetary Fund team which will report to a board meeting next month during which Zimbabwe could be expelled for falling almost R2-billion behind in its debt payments.

The Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono announced the visit in the state-controlled Herald newspaper yesterday amid warnings of a stock market crash and a big fall in the value of the Zimbabwe dollar.

“The nation should rededicate itself to responsible behaviour, particularly when it comes to the setting or review of prices of goods and services in the economy,” he said.

President Robert Mugabe has blamed sanctions and boycotts for his country’s troubles, along with drought.

South Africa agreed in principle earlier this month to a bailout to Zimbabwe and indicated it would consider taking over the country’s debt to the IMF to prevent expulsion. President Thabo Mbeki is under pressure to insist on economic and political reforms as a condition for the loan.

President Mugabe dashed hopes of political reforms on Thursday by pressing ahead with a 22-clause bill to amend the constitution that the opposition has denounced.

The changes would strengthen his 25-year hold on power with the creation of a senate expected to be dominated by his Zanu-PF party.

The bill proposes cancelling freehold title to real estate and barring those stripped of their land from appealing to the courts.
Government opponents risk being stripped of the right to travel.

“This is either a snub to Mbeki or an indication the South Africans are complicit,” said David Coltart, a legal affairs spokesperson for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change. - Guardian Unlimited Â

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