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Girl Child Network
Girl Child Network

Reflections on Operation Restore Order (ORO)

Francis Chumachawazungu - CDEP Manager

Girl Child Network - Community Development and Empowerment Program (CDEP)

Posted with permission of the Girl Child Network.
Comments on the report can be sent to the author at: gcn@zol.co.zw
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Dedicated to Robert Mutusva and two other children who in their death, welcomed me into their lives, and also laid down their lives for me to write this presentation. Robert died on 19th June 2005 from head injuries that he sustained when a wall to a cottage that he was helping to demolish collapsed onto him. Robert was 21 years old. May his soul rest in eternal peace

A visit by Stephen

On 21st June 2005, a man visited the GCN offices in Zengeza 4. His name is Stephen Mutusva. Stephen is among the multitude affected by Operation Restore Order (ORO), an exercise launched by the Zimbabwean government to rid the country of "illegal" structures and business practices. The economical-socio-political, and psychological impact of ORO are as wide and deep as one's mental capacity for inference and deduction. No sphere of human life has not been touched.

With regards to Stephen, ORO left him and his family bereaved. Stephen's younger brother Robert died on 19th June 2005 from head injuries that he sustained when a wall of an "illegal" cottage that he was helping to demolish collapsed onto him. Robert was 21 years old. The cottage was part of the home in which Stephen and his family had been living. Stephen and his family were, therefore, also left homeless and at the mercy of a very cold June night. The family and relatives could only mourn Robert in the open. But this is not all.

A couple of days prior, Stephen had also lost his only means of livelihood - a tuck shop that he was running on behalf of a friend. Stephen was, therefore, also left financially in the open at the mercy of a very unfriendly, cold, and wintry economic climate. This is the story that Stephen carries heavily into the GCN offices around 12.30pm on 21st June, heavily because as Stephen narrated his ordeal, his eyes were downcast and he was emotionally struggling to be a "man" and maintain composure against the impulse to breakdown and weep.

As I listened and talked to Stephen, I also realised that I was also a victim of ORO, by virtue of finding myself reacting to what he was saying. When one becomes aware of something, and they react to it, then they are victims of the thing. The question is not of whether one reacts or not. With regards to ORO, rather, we can ask, "What does our awareness of ORO evoke in us?" Some react by being angry, others are jubilant, others point fingers. Irrespective of the nature of our reactions, we are all, ultimately victims of ORO - ORO leaves an imprint in one's mind. Within this context, if one was to define ORO as a tragedy, then it is not only a Zimbabwean tragedy, but a global tragedy.

I accompanied Stephen to his "residence." On both sides of the street, silently beckoning the attention of one's eyes, are signs of the aftermath of ORO. There is rubble where structures used to proudly stand. Household furniture that used to dignify the inside of cottages stands undignified in the open. The furniture also seems to reflect the sense of helplessness apparent in the owners. The furniture more so the beds and wardrobes, however, seem to also "feel" ashamed and naked at being displayed in the open. On one bed, an adult is fast asleep, having probably spend the whole night awake guarding the furniture …. some people have also lost their furniture to thieves. Potholes, on the other hand, appear quite contended - they are "filled" up with the rubble from the demolished cottages.

At Stephen's residence, one negotiates one's way around the rubble and debris. Six women have gathered to morn Robert. A very "lonely looking" fire is burning lazily in the open. Two tired sticks are grudgingly offering themselves as the fuel. On the fire, a little water is slowly heating in an indifferent five litre tin (probably a once proud container of paint!). I pay my respects to the gathering.

Stephen then calls his mother, aunt, and another woman for a private meeting with me. The women sit on what once were the roofing sheets for a demolished cottage. I make a stool from two bricks that once were part of a team that proudly stood shoulder to shoulder, and head to buttock, to make up a wall for a cottage. Stephen performs the introductions, after which everyone eagerly awaits to hear from me. I slowly pull out from my trousers right side pocket, $500 000.00 of $20 000.00 notes. I respectfully hand the money to Stephen. The money has been extended to Stephen by GCN towards the provision of food for the mourners. Stephen in turn passes the "solemn" looking notes to his aunt. The aunt purposefully wraps the money in a "self-consciously" clean handkerchief, self-consciously because in its cleanliness, the handkerchief stands in sharp contrast to the immediate surroundings. I think about what to say.

What can one really say to people who have lost so much and in such circumstances? I tell them what I feel strongly. I talk to them about the need to forgive. Indeed, unless the human mind is capable of soaring above aggression, bigotry, anger, hatred, and violence in all their various forms, then ORO will continue to be recycled in society in its various forms.



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