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Operation Murambatsvina - Countrywide evictions of urban poor - Index of articles
UN "puzzled" by govt response to model house
December 21, 2005
JOHANNESBURG - UN
Resident Coordinator Agostinho Zacarias has expressed surprise at the
Zimbabwean government's criticism of a model house built by the UN for
those left homeless by the controversial Operation Murambatsvina.
The official Herald newspaper quoted Local Government Minister Ignatius
Chombo as saying that the UN was told to "follow set guidelines but they
went ahead and built this sub-standard building".
Zacarias told a press conference in the capital, Harare, on Wednesday
that he was "somewhat puzzled" by the minister's response. He went on
to describe the model as a joint effort by the Zimbabwean government and
the UN, as "it was designed jointly by UN technicians, together with technicians
appointed by the ministry of local government, and is the result of extended
negotiations between the UN and the government of Zimbabwe".
The Zimbabwean government's controversial clean-up campaign, Operation
Murambatsvina left more than 700,000 people homeless or without a livelihood
when it started in mid-May.
The Herald added that Chombo, after viewing the model home on Tuesday,
commented that the people who had designed the structure were guided by
"a this-is-good-for-Africa attitude".
Zacarias underlined that the model "very closely" reflected the technical
specifications contained in a letter from the Zimbabwean government over
a month ago. "What is new is the request attributed to the government
in yesterday's coverage [in the Herald] that the temporary housing should
contain two rooms - something not contained in the aforementioned specifications
provided to us".
The Zimbabwean government initially rejected the UN offer to build temporary
shelters, saying there was "no humanitarian crisis", only to make an about-turn
last month. In its acceptance letter the government insisted on drawing
up the list of beneficiaries, and laid down specifications for the construction
of permanent brick and concrete one-room shelters.
Reiterating that the UN had never committed itself to constructing permanent
housing for those left homeless after the clean-up operation, Zacarias
said the model had been built, notwithstanding various constraints, such
as time, cost and the need to provide shelter to as many as possible before
the onset of the rainy season.
The UN's spokesman in Harare, Hiro Ueki, told IRIN that the temporary
shelter had been designed in such a way that people could remove some
of the building material to construct permanent shelters.
He added that the UN hoped to provide shelter to 2,500 families within
a period of three months during phase 1 of the shelter programme. Subject
to funding, the UN intends building 20,000 units at a total cost of US
On Monday the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland told the UN
Security Council in New York that the global body and the humanitarian
community should be more proactive in engaging the Zimbabwean government
to address the "enormous humanitarian crisis" in that country.
Egeland met President Robert Mugabe in Harare earlier this month, where
the Zimbabwean leader snubbed a UN offer of tents for those affected by
the clean-up operation.
Zacarias pointed out on Wednesday that "tents are used throughout the
world to provide temporary shelter to those in need".
He said the UN in Zimbabwe had "agreed to move beyond the use of tents
in order to construct what might technically be called 'temporary or transitional
homes', which beneficiaries might subsequently use as a basic building
block for their longer-term housing".
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