Zimbabwe: Mugabe wins housing award

HARARE - Zimbabwe was on Tuesday named one of three Housing Rights Violators in 2005, for the forced evictions carried out during Operation Murambatsvina, which left more than 700 000 people homeless and affected a further 2.4 million people.

The Geneva-based Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) awards its Housing Rights Violator Awards to three governments guilty of particularly serious and pervasive housing rights violations in the preceding year since 2002. This year, Zimbabwe shares the Violator Awards with China and the State Government of Maharashtra, India.

COHRE's executive director, Scott Leckie, charged that the Zimbabwe operation was tantamount to crimes against humanity.

"The mass forced evictions campaign named Operation Murambatsvina forcibly evicted more than 700 000 residents and informal traders in Zimbabwe, leaving them homeless and destitute - not because of conflict or natural disaster, but due to their own government's calculated and brutal actions," said Leckie.

"It is abundantly clear that crimes against humanity have taken place in Zimbabwe in recent months, and those responsible should be held accountable and brought before the international judicial bodies to answer for these crimes," he added.

COHRE said since May 2005, more than 190 000 homes have been demolished or burnt in poor areas of cities including Harare, Bulawayo, Gweru, Mutare and Victoria Falls.

The United Nations has recently said the government had finally accepted aid from the global body to help families affected by the clean-up drive, some of them who are still living in the open as the summer rains have started falling.

There are reports from the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights that the government continues to defy court orders to stop evicting some residents who are in temporary shelter.

"The Zimbabwean Government's denial of food and other aid to millions of desperate and starving displaced people is inhumane and completely unacceptable under international human rights standards. COHRE calls upon African leaders and the African Union to urgently address the human rights and humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe," said Leckie. - ZimOnline