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

  • Government accepts help to build homes
    IRIN News
    January 17, 2007

    BULAWAYO - A partnership between Zimbabwe's second city, Bulawayo, and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), will bring about the construction of much-needed housing to replace homes demolished nearly two years ago during Operation Murambatsvina.

    Also known as Operation Restore Order, Murambatsvina was touted as an urban "clean-up campaign" by President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF government but condemned by the UN for breaching "both national and international human rights law", and left over 700,000 people homeless.

    The campaign was hastily followed by the government's Operation Garikai/Hlalani Kuhle (Live Well), designed to rehouse those who homes had been destroyed, but the follow-up exercise did little to alleviate the country's self-inflicted humanitarian crisis. In Bulawayo alone, more than 10,000 housing structures were torn down during the nationwide operation.

    Mugabe's opponents condemned the campaign as a collective punishment of urban residents for supporting the opposition Movement for Democratic Change party.

    Japhet Ndabeni Ncube, Bulawayo's executive mayor, told IRIN that the IOM had offered to assist in the construction of about 1,700 houses, specifically for those made homeless by Operation Murambatsvina but had not benefited from Operation Garikai/Hlalani Kuhle.

    According to council records, only 39 victims of Operation Murambatsvina, out of an estimated 10,000 affected households, benefited from the 700 houses built in its wake.

    Ncube said a recent audit had found that the beneficiaries of Operation Garikai/Hlalani Kuhle in Bulawayo were mainly politicians, well-known soccer players, public servants and security force members involved in the operation, and at least 600 of the "illegal beneficiaries" owned one or more properties elsewhere in the city.

    The council audit revealed that very few victims of Operation Murambatsvina had actually got houses. "We are grateful for the support offered by the IOM because it will help many victims of Operation Restore Order [Murambatsvina], who are still living in various conditions of distress in unsuitable locations around the city."

    Bulawayo town clerk Moffat Ndlovu said the IOM had indicated that they would spend about US$3,000 per unit, although the total cost of the programme had yet to be finalised because of the country's unstable economic environment, in which inflation was now running at 1,281 percent, the highest in the world.

    "We agreed on a double-phased programme, in the first stage of which the IOM would put up complete structures for the poorest victims of Operation Restore Order. The beneficiaries are expected to provide labour, such as brick-moulding and other support roles," Ndlovu told IRIN. "In the second phase, the IOM would provide materials for those who can afford to pay part of the construction costs of the structures. When we worked out the programme last year, we estimated the cost of putting up a single structure at US$3,000, but it could be much higher now."

    The government has rejected numerous offers of help to build houses by various international organisations, saying it had adequate resources to manage the crisis.

    Ignatius Chombo, Minister of Local Government, Rural and Urban Development, said the government welcomed development partners. "The government will work with any genuine organisation that wants to help the country develop. Their assistance makes a great difference to our people and we appreciate it."

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