Ripple effect of Operation Murambatsvina

Tracey* is one of many young girls forced to leave school in order to earn money for her family. Orphaned in the wake of Operation Murambatsvina when her parents fled the country for South Africa, she has been reduced to selling tomatoes in order to raise the money for her school fees.

Many victims are still picking up the pieces after their homes were destroyed.
Many victims are still picking up the pieces after their homes were destroyed.

Tracey lives in Hatcliffe with her grandmother, but she cannot afford the $70 a term for the local high school.

“I have not been to school for three weeks after I was expelled for not paying my fees. I wish to go to school but the formal schools are all expensive,” said Tracy. “My parents sometimes write, but often they do not and it is my grandmother who takes care of me. At the moment we do not have extra money for school as the little that I make from selling vegetables goes towards food.”


As well as the struggle to pay school fees, Tracey faces the stigmatisation of being associated with Operation Murambatsvina. The squalid living conditions she now shares with her grandmother following the destruction of her home means that she is looked down upon by her fellow class mates.

“Other children at school laugh at us, they call us names because most of us do not have uniforms. Now that it is raining it will be worse. They will be calling us vechidhaka (the muddy ones),” said Tracey.

Despite these numerous hurdles, Tracey has hopes of one day being a professional.

“I hope that I will be psychologist and I always ask the senior guys in the community to help me when I am not at school,” said Tracy.

Informally employed

For local carpenter, Owen Kwangware, it is a priority that his children receive an education.

“I have two children and one is going to an informal school were we negotiate the school fees with the school authority, while the older one is currently at home after failing to register for his O-levels,” said Kwangare.

Kwangware is makes beds, shelves and trays. On the rare occasion that business is good, he makes $100 a month.

“I could make $300 a month, but that cannot happen here because the people do not pay, they take on credit and then pay back later. That affects my business very much but still I have to carry on since I know no other job,” said Kwangware.

In 2005 Kwangware and hundreds of other families were forcibly removed from Pota Farm near Norton. Most resettled in Hatcliffe.

“I used to think that I would die here because the houses are dilapidated, but here I am. When the cholera pandemic spread I was sure that this settlement would be wiped out, but we have survived,” said Kwangware.

Garikai failure

Operation Garikai was launched by President Robert Mugabe in an attempt to save face over the scandalous destruction of Operation Murambatsvina. However, it has been hailed by those it was supposed to house as a failure.

At the age of 43, Kwangware has never been formally employed and Operation Garikai has been unsuccessful in its bid to create a formal employment sector.

“Business was better before Murambatsvina, but I no longer look at the world that way. I now think about how I can improve my life because whether I like it or not – this is now my home,” said Kwangware. (*not her real name)

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