Mugabe poster | Robin Hammond

Mugabe poster 2012 | Photograph 39 x 59 inch

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A poster on the wall of a block of flats in Mbare. Robert Mugabe celebrated his 88th birthday this year. He has been in power since the country gained independence in 1980. Zimbabwe's first high-density suburb, Mbare, was established in 1907. It was originally called Harare Township, a name later used for the capital city itself. Harare is a corruption of Haarari, meaning 'One who never sleeps'. To accommodate men coming to the capital for work, the council built Matapi flats and Mbare hostels. They would work for a few days at a time and then return to their families in the rural areas.

Today those flats are dilapidated and severely overcrowded. Many rooms are occupied by two or three families. The area was the centre of a lethal cholera outbreak in 2008. Significant portions of Mbare's 'informal' structures were destroyed by police and military forces during the operation Murambatsvina in May 2005. It has been one of the most politically volatile areas in the country. The notorious mafia-like Chipangano gang, a ZANU PF aligned militia, patrol the suburb extracting bribes and intimidating residents, especially around election time.

Mbare has become synonymous with diseases, fear, crime and political violence.