Zimbabwe's unemployed should move to countryside, says minister

Johannesburg (dpa) - Unemployed Zimbabweans, who had received parcels of land, should build on it instead of dwelling in city slums, said Deputy Housing Minister Morris Sakabuya Monday in Cape Town.
Speaking at an international housing seminar, Sakabuya said Zimbabwe's Operation "Restore Order'' was aimed at relocating urban slum dwellers and was part of a national housing programme to build 250,000 new houses annually and wipe out a housing backlog by 2008.

"It is planned. We have never done anything unplanned in Zimbabwe,'' he said.

The controversial demolition programme has sparked international criticism.

Those expelled from Harare were being sent to the countryside, if they had homes there, the minister said. Others would be resettled on farms near the city after spells in transit camps.

Sakabuya said: "In fact that is why we undertook the resettlement programme. We were trying to decongest urban areas and tribal trust areas.''

The head of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, Morgan Tsvangirai, confirmed Monday a meeting with South African President Thabo Mbeki.

Tsvangirai, who is in South Africa to present a book, informed Mbeki of the situation in Zimbabwe.

Both Mbeki and the African Union have refrained from criticising events in Zimbabwe.

Operation "Restore Order'', launched May 19, began with the arrests of street traders and the demolition of flea markets. Hundreds of thousands have been evicted from slums in Zimbabwe's big cities in the middle of winter in the southern hemisphere.

Later, police backed by bulldozers swept through poor suburbs in Harare and other towns and cities demolishing illegally-built shacks and cottages. Human rights groups say at least 300,000 people have been made homeless.

U.N. envoy Anna Tibaijuka is currently touring Zimbabwe to assess the humanitarian impact of the operation. dpa rk pb mga


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