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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Anticipating the 'tsunami': rumours, planning and the arbitrary State in Zimbabwe
Author:Fontein, JoostISNI
Periodical:Africa: Journal of the International African Institute
Geographic term:Zimbabwe
Subjects:political repression
urban areas
External links:https://doi.org/10.3366/E0001972009000862
Abstract:This article explores popular responses to ZANU-PF's Operation Murambatsvina, commonly dubbed Zimbabwe's 'tsunami', which targeted informal markets and 'illegal' housing across Zimbabwe between May and August of 2005, making an estimated 700,000 people homeless and indirectly affecting a quarter of Zimbabwe's population. The article argues that central to experiences of these events 'on the ground' (particularly in Harare's suburbs of Chitungwiza and Hatfield, where most of the ethnographic material was collected) was a profound tension between the resonances evoked by official appeals to a reassertion of 'order' and formal planning procedures, and the spectacle of ZANU-PF's public demonstration of its ability to deploy State 'force' ruthlessly. Although the brutal execution of the programme was widely condemned, less reported has been the way in which official justifications for the operation were recognizable to people living in urban areas across Zimbabwe, resonating with memories of past clearances. The author argues that in the ambiguity generated by this tension the political advantages of the operation for the ruling party become most apparent. Relating the plethora of rumours circulating at the time (about the 'hidden agendas' behind the operation) to Achille Mbembe's work on postcolonial conviviality, the author argues that like Mbembe's satirical cartoons these rumours did not so much undermine the authority of ZANU-PF as reinforce its omnipotent presence. However, unlike the pessimism of Mbembe's vision of all encompassing power, the author argues that if the rumours about Operation Murambatsvina are an example of the constant re-making of 'stateness' on the margins, then the ambiguity of such rumours can not only reinforce the omnipotent presence of the 'State power', but also illustrate the omnipresence of its fundamental insecurity. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. in English and French. [Journal abstract]