Zimbabwe: UN envoy on evictions says freedom of movement is fundamental right

News and Press Release
Originally published
The United Nations Special Envoy examining the humanitarian aspects of the evictions of thousands of poor people from housing and businesses during Zimbabwe's winter today visited a demolition site on her way to Victoria Falls, the United Nations spokesman said today.

This morning, the Executive Director of the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT), Anna Tibaijuka, "stopped in the town of Hwange and inspected recent demolitions of homes. Later, she was shown sites the Government has set aside for new housing," Stéphane Dujarric said at the daily briefing. "She will also travel to Victoria Falls for further inspections."

He quoted her as having said yesterday, "In a democracy people cannot be forced to stay away from a city, nor can they be forced out of a city. The freedom of movement is a fundamental right. People come to the cities for economic opportunity. If you try to ship them away it doesn't work. They will come back, anyway."

Ms. Tibaijuka, who extended her stay in Zimbabwe by nearly another week, will be in the capital of the Southern African country, Harare, for a final round of meetings tomorrow and is hoping to fly to the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, where UN-HABITAT is headquartered, on Saturday.

She was to report to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on her findings.

Operation Murambatsvina (Restore Order) began four weeks ago in what the Government called an effort to clean up cities and fight the black market across Zimbabwe. As a result, tens of thousands of homes and market stalls have been destroyed.

Ten United Nations special rapporteurs on human freedoms and rights issued a statement late last month expressing concern about the "recent mass forced evictions in Zimbabwe and related human rights violations" and raising questions about the negative effects on supplies of water and food, education and health care, including HIV/AIDS treatment.

The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) said it has been working with Government ministries and several non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to distribute drinking water, sanitation equipment, health care supplies, blankets and plastic sheeting to affected children and women.