Zimbabwe condemns UN emergency houses for homeless

HARARE, Dec 21 (Reuters) - Zimbabwe launched another verbal attack on Wednesday on United Nations efforts to house those left homeless by the government's demolition of shanty towns, describing one model house as a "mockery to Africans".

President Robert Mugabe's government has rejected offers of emergency aid from the world body for thousands whose homes were destroyed during its urban clean-up campaign this year, although it says it wants U.N. help to build permanent homes.

Mugabe has led vicious attacks on the U.N. and senior officials including Secretary-General Kofi Annan, accusing them of unfairly dramatising Zimbabwe's humanitarian crisis on behalf of his Western critics. The U.N. says the crackdown displaced 700,000 people from their homes or jobs in the informal trading sector.

On Wednesday, Zimbabwe's state-controlled Herald newspaper said Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo had condemned as "substandard and a mockery to Africans" a model emergency two-roomed house put up by the U.N. at an estate where thousands are living in plastic shacks.

He said the house, with walls made of bricks and asbestos sheets, fell short of government expectations and human dignity.

"This structure is not permanent. We want permanent houses for our people," the minister was quoted as saying.

"Comrade Chombo described the house ... as below human dignity, saying the people who designed the structure had been guided by a 'this-is-good-for-the-African' attitude," the newspaper said.

Local UN officials were not available for immediate comment.


Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
For more humanitarian news and analysis, please visit https://www.trust.org/alertnet