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

  • ZIMBABWE: Govt won't agree on appeal for victims of cleanup
    IRIN News
    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 hold.

    "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 said.

    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 original areas."

    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 asked.

    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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