Zimbabwe: UN envoy leaves Harare with sad memories

HARARE - United Nations special envoy Anna Tibaijuka yesterday said she will leave Zimbabwe today carrying back with her memories of people struggling for accommodation after their homes were demolished by the government.
She was speaking after a one and a half hour-meeting with President Robert Mugabe and senior Zimbabwe government officials at the ruling ZANU PF party headquarters in Harare.

Tibaijuka, who is also executive director of UN Habitat said she would immediately send a programme manager from her organisation to work with the government, non-governmental organisations and UN agencies in Harare to help people left homeless by the government's urban clean-up operation.

"Some of the challenges on the ground were (that) some of the people I visited were not necessarily in proper shelters ... I will remember going around seeing people struggling to put up accommodation for themselves," she told journalists after the meeting.

ANNA Tibaijuka . . . I will remember going around seeing people struggling to put up accommodation for themselves

But Tibaijuka would not hint whether she will condemn or approve Zimbabwe's controversial urban renewal campaign in her report to UN chief, Koffi Annan. She however said she had not been impeded in her work during her two-week stay in the country.

"I have immediately decided to support the UN country team with a programme manager to make sure that we sort out the challenges once and for all in a sustainable manner," Tibaijuka said.

The government has been condemned by rights groups, the Commonwealth, the European Union, Britain and the United States for the mass demolitions, which Zimbabwe's main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party says have left as many as 1.5 million people homeless.

Harare, which this week said displaced urban families must go to rural areas to farm, says the clean-up operation was necessary to smash crime and to restore the beauty of Zimbabwe's cities and towns.

The MDC, which is most supported in urban centres, says the clean-up exercise is a ploy to punish its supporters for rejecting Mugabe and ZANU PF in last March's disputed general election.

Tibaijuka this week told government officials in the southern Bulawayo city that urbanisation was inevitable and rapped them for saying people left homeless by the operation would be forcibly moved to rural areas.

Commenting on reports that there were five people killed during the demolition of houses, Tibaijuka said she had not received a confirmation or a denial from the Zimbabwe government.

Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo, heading the government demolition team, told journalists Harare would submit a report to Tibaijuka, but added investigations had shown police were not responsible for any deaths.

Chombo said the government welcomed any assistance to help people whose properties were demolished and was ready to discuss this with the UN. - ZimOnline