Statement by the Minister of Foreign Affairs on the report of the UN fact finding mission to Zimbabwe: a preliminary response

News and Press Release
Originally published
1. The Government of Zimbabwe acknowledges receipt, on the 21st of July 2005, of the Report of UN Secretary General's Special Envoy, Mrs. Anna Kajumulo Tibaijuka, following her fact-finding mission to Zimbabwe undertaken between 26 June and 8 July 2005. We had the pleasure to receive and work with Mrs. Tibaijuka. The Government congratulates her for producing the report in such a short time. The Report raises a number of issues to which the Government of Zimbabwe will fully respond in due course, after carefully studying the Report. The Government welcomes this opportunity to give a preliminary response to her Report.

2. The Government of Zimbabwe launched Operation Murambatsvina/Restore Order on 18 May 2005 - an Operation that was intended to address a cocktail of social, economic and security challenges that had come to negatively impact upon the country's economy and the populace. In her first encounter with Government officials, the UN Special envoy was informed that the Operation had been undertaken to inter-alia :

a) stem disorderly or chaotic urbanization and its attendant problems that hinder the Government and local authorities from enforcing national and local authority by-laws and providing service delivery e.g. water, electricity, sewage and refuse removal

b) stop economic crimes especially illegal black market transactions in foreign currency;

c) reduce high crime levels by targeting organized crime syndicates;

d) arrest social ills among them prostitution which promotes the spread of HIV/AIDS and other communicable diseases;

e) stop the hoarding of consumer commodities, and other commodities in short supply; and

f) reverse environmental damage and threat to water sources caused by inappropriate and unlawful urban settlements.

3. Operation Restore Order was conceived not as an end in itself but as a precursor to Operation Garikai/Hlalani Khuhle/Better Life whose object is to provide decent and affordable accommodation as well as create an enabling and conducive environment that promotes small and medium scale business enterprises. This is in line with Government's stated policy objectives on housing delivery and SME development as enunciated by the ruling party in its manifesto for the 31 March 2005 Parliamentary elections.

4. In fulfilment of the second phase of the Operation, Government has embarked on a massive housing construction programme nationwide which is supported by a budget of Z$3 trillion as seed money. Already basic housing units and small and medium enterprise factory shells have been, and are being, constructed. The intended beneficiaries, who are primarily those affected by the operation, are taking up occupancy. Government has invited the private sector, Pension Funds and individuals with capacity to complement its efforts, to do so.

Observations on contents of the Report

5. The Report describes the Operation in value-laden and judgmental language which clearly demonstrates inbuilt bias against the Government and the Operation. Throughout the Report submissions by Government are consistently referred to as 'allegations', 'claims' or 'rhetoric' whilst those of the opposition and traditional Government critics are explicitly or impliedly taken as statements of fact.

6. The Report demonstrates hostility to the Operation through visual aids like the pictures on pages 28 and 29 that depict the City of Harare from colonial times up to the clean-up conducted under the Operation. The Report deliberately leaves out pictures of Harare after the Operation because such pictures would show the massive construction going on under of Operation Garikai/Hlalani Kuhle and consequent sanity which now prevails country wide.

7. The Report places emphasis on "wanton destruction of homes, business premises and vending sites" but deliberately forgets to mention that these structures, under Zimbabwean laws, were illegal. Before the evictions were carried out, occupants were given the choice to voluntarily take down their illegal structures.

8. The Report's allegation that the Operation was carried out in a manner that violated "national and international legal frameworks" is false. The Operation was legal in terms of Zimbabwean Laws and consistent with international provisions.

9. The Report's assertion that the people who were relocated during Operation Murambatsvina/ Restore Order were denied medical care is false. The same people did and still access medical facilities and care as before. In fact, Government set up a mobile clinic at Caledonia, in addition to medical facilities already available.

10. While the Report paints a bleak future for the relocated persons, Operation Garikai/Hlalani Khuhle/Better Life actually restores their dignity and meets their hopes for a better future.

11. The Report grossly exaggerates the number of people who were affected by the Operation. Furthermore, the report conveniently ignores the country's social safety-nets which make Zimbabwe a leading country in terms of the UN social development indices.

12. The impression portrayed by the Report that there is no dialogue between Government and civil society is baseless and unfounded. Apart from falling outside the terms of reference it upholds the pro-opposition tone implicit and explicit throughout the report.

13. The assertion that the Operation was based on "a set of colonial-era laws and policies" smacks of double standards on the part of the Report. Government has an obligation to enforce the laws of the land.

14. Government is not averse to outside assistance, and indeed has been working with numerous NGOs, donors and nations of goodwill but is strongly opposed to intrusions or assistance that is subject to conditionalities.

15. As the report admits, Zimbabwe is not at war or in conflict and is enjoying peace and stability predicated upon good governance as demonstrated by regular democratic elections, the latest being the March 31 parliamentary elections which were internationally acclaimed as peaceful and transparent and consistent with SADC principles and guidelines governing the conduct of democratic elections.

16. Operation Murambatsvina/Restore Order has now been concluded and it is now Operation Garikai/Hlalani Kuhle that is in full swing.

17. Zimbabwe has a broad range of policies on small and medium scale enterprises as well as gender sensitive policies that specifically address the concerns of the poor. The Government actually recognizes and continues to promote the role of the informal sector in the economy. However, Government wants to see an informal sector which operates within the confines of the law.

18. Zimbabwe has promulgated legislation which grants citizenship to all SADC citizens who were resident in the country by 1980. In this regard Zimbabwe ranks first in the region in promoting and granting citizenship rights to SADC citizens.

19. The Government of Zimbabwe deplores attempts by the Blair government to hijack and politicize the Special Envoy's Mission as demonstrated by Blair's exhortation that the Special Envoy should come up with a "good report" that he would take to the Security Council.

20. Finally, the Zimbabwe Government wishes to state that it is exercising its legitimate responsibility to implement the country's laws, including local authority by-laws, with the support of the majority of ordinary Zimbabweans. This responsibility has been and is being exercised in the context of the socio-economic policies of the government whose overall objectives and goals are to uplift the lives of ordinary Zimbabweans, in the face of illegal sanctions and unwarranted vilification by Britain and its allies, adversities which the report does not seem too keen to acknowledge. In this regard the benefits that are already beginning to be ushered by Operation Garikai/Hlalani Khuhle and the enthusiastic response of our people bear clear testimony that the government's policies are consistent with the aspirations of our people. Zimbabweans generally dislike the disorder and chaos that was the order of the day before Operation Murambatsvina. Furthermore, Zimbabwe does not appreciate the stereo-type thinking that romanticizes squalor and shacks as fitting habitats for Africans and therefore rejects any prescriptions designed to consign her people to the sub standard conditions boldly tackled by Operation Murambatsvina/Restore Order.