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

  • UN aid envoy criticises Zimbabwe for snubbing tents
    Agence France-Presse (AFP)
    December 07, 2005

    JOHANNESBURG - UN aid coordinator Jan Egeland on Wednesday criticised Zimbabwe for rejecting an offer of tents to house some of the hundreds of thousands left homeless in the recent demolitions campaign.

    "We disagree on tents," Egeland told a news conference in Johannesburg following a three-day visit to Zimbabwe during which he held talks with President Robert Mugabe.

    "I cannot understand why tents -- if they are good enough in Europe and the United States for people who have lost their houses, why couldn't they be good enough for people in Zimbabwe ?" he said.

    Mugabe spurned the offer during talks on Tuesday although the UN is still set to go ahead with the construction of 2,500 semi-permanent shelters in the coming months.

    Mugabe's spokesman George Charamba said Zimbabweans "are not tents people. Tents just don't auger well with our culture."

    Egeland said that the new homes to be built with international assistance, coupled with the 5,000 to 7,000 houses that the government is set to build are still a long way from meeting the needs of the hundreds of thousands who lost their homes.

    "The humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe is extremely serious and it is deteriorating," said Egeland, the UN under-secretary for humanitarian affairs.

    The UN envoy met with families that lost their homes during the demolitions campaign that was launched in May in what the government described as an "urban renewal campaign."

    The campaign dubbed Operation Murambatsvina, or Drive out Trash, ended in July, leaving some 700,000 people homeless or without livelihoods, according to the United Nations.

    "My message to the government was 'help us help you help your people'," said Egeland.

    In South Africa, Egeland met with foreign ministry officials and said that Zimbabwe would be a "major priority for them in the coming year."

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