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  • Operation Murambatsvina - Countrywide evictions of urban poor - Index of articles

  • UN report handed to Zimbabwe
    Mail & Guardian (SA)
    July 21, 2005

    A report from a United Nations fact-finding mission on Zimbabwe's demolition campaign was turned over to the Harare government on Wednesday and will be made public on Friday or Monday, a UN spokesperson said.

    "We hope to make public the report on Friday or Monday," spokesperson Marie Okabe told a press briefing.

    She said UN envoy Anna Kajumulo Tibaijuka, the executive director of UN Habitat who produced the report after an exhaustive fact-finding mission to Zimbabwe, would give a press conference to release the document.

    On Tuesday Okabe said the Zimbabwean government would be given 48 hours to review an advance copy of the report, in its final form, before it is made public.

    The United Nations estimates that 200 000 people have been left homeless in the nearly three-month campaign to demolish shacks and other unauthorised dwellings, but the opposition has denounced the blitz as a campaign of repression and say up to 1,5-million Zimbabweans have lost their homes.

    Last week, the Zimbabwean government ordered a temporary halt to its campaign to demolish backyard shacks and other illegal buildings and gave landlords 10 days starting on Monday "to regularise" the structures with the relevant municipalities.

    It had launched its campaign around May 19, razing shacks, markets and nurseries in what it has described as an urban renewal campaign to get rid of grime and crime.

    Daily News heads back to court
    Meanwhile, the publishers of a banned Zimbabwean daily said on Wednesday they were preparing a series of court appeals against the decision by a government media commission this week denying them a licence.

    "We are again left with no option but to approach the relevant courts for relief ... that's what the law says and we are preparing for that," said Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ) chief executive, Sam Sipepa Nkomo.

    ANZ are the publishers of The Daily News and The Daily News on Sunday, banned nearly two years ago for breaching the country's tough media laws for operating without a licence from the Media and Information Commission (MIC).

    The commission on Monday refused for the second time to grant the newspaper group a licence to operate as a media service provider.

    In its latest ruling, the commission said the company breached media laws by among other things, employing unaccredited journalists, failing to submit copies of their newpapers to the commission and employing a reporter convicted of criminal defamation.

    Nkomo said the commission ignored the merits of the company's fresh application which it made in March.

    He said the MIC made its decision "on the sole ground that ANZ allegedly and historically committed infractions of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act in respect of which it has not been prosecuted, let alone convicted.

    "In our view the decision of the commission violates the flawed legislation on terms of which it is enjoined to act. It denies access to alternative voices and information to the many readers of The Daily News and Daily News on Sunday.

    The newspapers were closed down in September 2003 after the country's Supreme Court ruled that they violated the country's media laws by operating without a licence.

    Once the country's best-selling daily, the Daily News was reduced to a handful of former managers and journalists occupying a small office in a central Harare.

    On March 14, the Supreme Court set aside the government commission's refusal to register the two newspapers and ordered the commission to give ANZ another opportunity to apply for a licence.

    The court however upheld several sections of Zimbabwe's tough media laws which have been invoked to ban four independent newspapers, deport several foreign correspondents and arrest scores of others.

    Is this just another political gimmick?
    The Zimbabwean government has started moving some former slum dwellers left homeless by a controversial demolition campaign back to what remains of their destroyed shacks, state television reported on Wednesday.

    "What is happening is that those from Hatcliffe Extension who have ... lease agreements are being asked to return to their old stands," said police inspector Garikai Marange, referring to a once densely populated township.

    Marange, who is in charge of a transit camp on the outskirts of the capital Harare, added: "About 100 people have left the camp so far. We have between 200 and 300 people and they are very happy to go back to their stands."

    Human rights lawyers said 2 000 families were thrown out of their makeshift homes in Hatcliffe Extension, a slum 10km west of Harare when the government launched its controversial clean up campaign in May.

    Some of them were moved to the settlement in the early 1990s after they were removed from the streets of Harare in a clean up campaign on the eve of a visit by Britain's Queen Elizabeth II.

    High Court Judge Tedius Karwi dismissed an application in May by 2 000 families removed from Hatcliffe Extension, who wanted their eviction to be declared illegal.

    "It's not clear whether they are going to stay or if this is just another political gimmick," said Otto Saki of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights.

    "The other question is what is the government going to do about shelter and property they destroyed and the families who have moved to their rural homes. Are they going to compensate everyone affected?" - Sapa-AFP

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