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

  • Zimbabwe: UN envoy visits govt's clean-up campaign sites
    IRIN News
    December 05, 2005

    JOHANNESBURG, - UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland visited Zimbabweans affected by the government's controversial clean-up campaign, Operation Murambatsvina, in the capital, Harare, on Monday.

    Egeland also visited a government housing site and inspected units built for those affected by the operation, which has left more than 700,000 people homeless or without a livelihood after kicking off in mid-May. Although he responded positively to the government's attempts to house those left homeless, Egeland said "the needs are far greater". The envoy is also the UN Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs.

    The Zimbabwean government has maintained that the operation was aimed at clearing slums and flushing out criminals, and has announced plans to construct 5,000 homes across the country by the end of this year.

    Zimbabwe initially rejected UN offers of assistance to build temporary shelter for people affected by the operation, only to make an about-turn last month. Subject to funding, the UN will construct 2,500 housing units during the first phase of the programme, and will eventually build 20,000 units at a total cost of US $18 million.

    The UN envoy visited two transit camps housing people left homeless by the clean-up operation and also met with donors, church leaders, and international and national NGOs on Monday.

    Egeland was expected to meet President Robert Mugabe before leaving Zimbabwe on Wednesday.

    The envoy arrived in Harare late Saturday and met with Local Government and Public Works Minister Ignatius Chombo on Sunday. He had asked Chombo "to help us to help you," said UN spokesman Hiro Ueki in Harare, noting that the comment had been made in the context of providing "broader" humanitarian assistance.

    The UN envoy is expected to visit Zimbabwe's second city, Bulawayo, and other parts of southern Zimbabwe to inspect food distribution points. Last week, the UN launched an appeal for US $276 million for Zimbabwe, saying at least three million people would require food aid, as only an estimated 600,000 mt of maize had been harvested, compared to a national requirement of 1.8 million mt.

    Human Rights Watch (HRW), the international watchdog organisation, claimed in a report on the aftermath of the clean-up that the Zimbabwean government had "refused to acknowledge the scale of the crisis precipitated by the evictions campaign, and continued to blatantly violate the human rights of the people displaced by Operation Murambatsvina".

    HRW accused the government of failing to take measures to house evicted people, "many thousands of whom continue to live in the open, in disused fields or in the bush; or rudimentary shelters made from the debris of destroyed houses; or who squeeze into tiny rooms with family members who have agreed to shelter them".

    Zimbabwe's Minister of Security, Dydimus Mutasa, reacting to critical reports on the clean-up campaign, told IRIN recently, "They [clean-up campaigns] happen everywhere in the world - whether it is London and even in South Africa. Things have become better, people are able to sleep peacefully now."

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