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

  • Zimbabwe: Mugabe's housing programme grinds to a halt
    December 03, 2005

    HARARE - President Robert Mugabe's project to build houses for thousands of families whose homes he ordered demolished in a controversial urban renewal campaign five months ago has ground to a halt because there is no money.

    At least 700 000 people were cast onto the streets without shelter or means of livelihood after their homes were demolished by the government, according to the United Nations (UN) which also said Mugabe's urban renewal campaign violated human rights and may have breached international law.

    Another 2.4 million poor Zimbabweans were also affected by the home demolition campaign, the UN said.

    But Mugabe defended the urban clean-up exercise saying it was intended to better the lives of Zimbabweans because the cash-strapped Harare government would build modern houses for people whose mostly slum accommodation had been demolished. However, a ZimOnline news team that visited construction sites at Whitecliff and Hatcliff extension just outside Harare, where construction of some of the houses began four months ago, found the sites virtually deserted with no building taking place.

    There were several structures at various stages of incompletion with some of the contractors who spoke on condition they were not named saying building work stopped last month after the government ran out of money.

    "Even us, the workers, have not received our salaries since October," said one construction worker at Hatcliff Extension. "In early October, the government said we would receive some food because our salaries would be delayed. But we only received the food a few times and that was it."

    Although several hundred houses were recently completed in the second largest city of Bulawayo, the government has not been able to finish building houses in the other cities before the onset of the rainy season as it had promised to do. The rains started a few weeks ago.

    Local Government and Housing Minister Ignatius Chombo, in charge of the reconstruction programme, confirmed the work stoppages. But he said that this was because of a shortage of building materials rather than because the government does not have money.

    He said: "People tend to exaggerate things. Of course we are having problems of suppliers not meeting our demands for building materials. We have money for the projects."

    Delays in completion of the house building project appears to back economic analysts who had expressed doubt that the Harare administration would be able to find the huge financial resources required to sponsor such a programme.

    In addition to building houses, Mugabe's government must also find more money to buy fuel, food, essential medical drugs and other basic survival commodities in critical short supply as Zimbabwe grapples its worst ever economic crisis. - ZimOnline.

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