Zim youth hired for 'operation clean-up'

Three hundred graduates of Zimbabwe’s controversial youth training camps have been hired to work with police in Harare to help curb “illegal businesses” in the wake of the government’s clean-up campaign, the Sunday Mail reported.

Touts and pavement vendors have flocked back to the streets of the capital after police chased them away in May, when Operation Murambatsvina (Shona for Operation Drive Out Rubbish) was launched.

“The city of Harare has resolved to re-engage 300 National Youth Service graduates for the next three months at a cost of nearly Z$6-billion (US$250 000) to ensure that illicit business activities (are) curbed and illegal buildings destroyed during Operation Murambatsvina (Restore Order) do not resurface,” the paper said.

The youths are to be attached to the municipal police, the paper said.

More than 18 000 youths have graduated so far from the National Youth Service programme, which was introduced in 2001. President Robert Mugabe’s government says the programme is meant to instill discipline and patriotism in Zimbabwe’s young people, but critics say the youths are indoctrinated in anti-opposition politics.

Operation Restore Order saw the arrest of thousands of vendors.

Their makeshift stalls were destroyed by police, along with thousands of backyard cottages in a move that provoked international condemnation.

But many vendors are reported to be sneaking back onto the streets to sell their wares. With unemployment rates estimated to be at least 70%, the vast majority of families in Zimbabwe depend upon informal jobs to keep themselves afloat.

On Saturday it was reported that members of Zimbabwe’s football team were being rewarded for winning a regional tournament with the 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 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.

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. ‒ Sapa, Guardian Unlimited Â

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