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Operation Murambatsvina - Countrywide evictions of urban poor - Index of articles
Govt won't agree on appeal for victims of cleanup
August 29, 2005
JOHANNESBURG - Zimbabwean
authorities have hit out at the United Nations, saying its response to
the country's current socioeconomic challenges is inappropriate and misguided.
President Robert Mugabe's
government last week refused to endorse a US $30 million emergency appeal
to provide food and medicine for 300,000 Zimbabweans hardest hit by his
controversial urban cleanup campaign.
Jan Egeland, the UN
Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, said on Friday that the
lack of an agreement with the Harare government had put the appeal on
"It's hard to
understand why we can't help these people. The government disagrees with
the wording of the flash appeal, or with our working with certain NGO's,
and it disagrees with the numbers [of people affected]," Egeland
Signs that the government
would rebuff the UN's offer of help became evident when Zimbabwe rejected
a scathing report compiled by UN special envoy, Anna Tibaijuka, which
had labelled the cleanup campaign a "breach of both national and
international human rights law provisions guiding evictions" that
had created a humanitarian crisis.
"The UN appeal
cannot be acceptable because it is based on Tibaijuka's flawed report.
The government has since responded to it, as requested, and we wonder
why the UN has gone ahead and prepared the appeal without considering
the contents of the Zimbabwe response," Deputy Information and Publicity
Minister Bright Matonga told IRIN on Monday.
Zimbabwe has denied
Tibaijuka's findings that over 700,000 people were directly affected by
the demolition drive, saying the figure was "grossly exaggerated".
It insisted Operation Murambatsvina ('Drive out Filth') was carried out
within the confines of Zimbabwean law with the aim of addressing "a
cocktail of social, economic and security challenges that were negatively
impacting on the country's economy and the populace".
The UN special envoy
said a total of 2.4 million people, or 18 percent of the population, were
affected by the evictions and the crackdown on the informal economy that
began on 19 May.
Egeland said that
humanitarian agencies had not been informed when evictions took place,
and often arrived too late, or on occasion were not allowed to access
sites where homes had been bulldozed. This had prevented aid workers from
being able to accurately trace where displaced people had moved to.
Egeland said that
many of those driven from their homes by Operation Murambatsvina had returned
to the countryside, while others were living in urban slums in conditions
much worse than before they were evicted. He noted that only about 100,000
individuals were currently being assisted by NGOs and the UN at 50 sites
around the country.
Matonga hit back at
the accusation the authorities had abandoned those made homeless by the
cleanup campaign. "The government has not failed to provide for the
needy, and there are no displaced people's camps anywhere in the country.
The people have been resettled somewhere, or given new stands in their
On Monday Security
Minister Didymus Mutasa also downplayed the need for international assistance.
"We do not know
of any people as desperate as described in the UN report and some media
reports - those who need care are not too many, and we can cope. Government-built
shelters are going up in every town - so where is the crisis?" Mutasa
Finance minister Herbert
Murerwa earlier this month said the government was slashing its reported
allocation of $3 trillion (US $300 million) for Operation Garikai/Hlalani
Kuhle ('Stay well') - its new housing reconstruction programme - by two-thirds.
But both Mutasa and
Matonga denied that Hlalani Kuhle was stuttering, with only 5,000 housing
units having been built so far to accommodate the hundreds of thousands
left without shelter.
Mutasa said the project
was being slowed down by material shortages, but insisted the government
would meet its goal of 150,000 new houses or plots allocated by mid-October.
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