Sunday, July 03, 2005

Nope, no problem here, folks, just move along...(UPDATE)

UN envoy endorses cleanup operation in Zimbabwe


United Nations special envoy to Zimbabwe, UN-Habitat Executive Director Anna Kagumulo Tibaijuka, said on Thursday the Zimbabwean government's vision for the cleanup exercise is in line with her organization's objective.

She said this after separate meetings with civic groups and a government task force.

During the meeting with the government task force which is largely made up of government ministers, Tibaijuka said that UN- Habitat's core obligation was to create clean cities and towns.

"Habitat's agenda is creating cities without slums and the vision for Operation Murambatsvina is clear," she said.

"Obviously you are fighting poverty and not the poor and you are also fighting slums and not the slum dweller and we look forward to working with you," said Tibaijuka, whose organization has a presence in 25 other countries.

The cleanup exercise started in Harare on May 18 and rolled out to all urban centers across the country.

Tibaijuka, who is in the country at the behest of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, however wanted to know how the government planned the operation and how the implementation procedures were undertaken to enable her to critically assess the situation.

She will prepare a detailed report of her findings for the UN chief.

She also requested to be furnished with figures of how many people had been rendered homeless and where they had been relocated.

She began her fact-finding mission on Wednesday when she met President Robert Mugabe after holding internals meetings with UN country staff on Monday and Tuesday.

Tibaijuka, who arrived in the country on Sunday, is expected to visit the eastern border town of Mutare, her first tour outside Harare, on Friday.

The cleanup exercise, which has seen the demolition of hundreds of illegal accommodation and commercial structures across the country, has attracted international attention.

July 4: Apparantly, she was misquoted.


Tibaijuka told CNN on Friday that she was here to talk with those affected and to "assess how we can work together with local authorities, with government to assist them."

The state-run Herald newspaper quoted Tibaijuka on Friday as praising President Robert Mugabe's government for supplying building plots to some of the homeless.

"Allocation of stands for housing is a reflection of the seriousness of government," she was quoted as saying at a meeting with government ministers on Thursday.

But the United Nations said its envoy's comments were reported out of context.

"Her listening to the statements made by the ministers should in no way be seen as her endorsing the government's policy," Dujarric said. "UN Habitat, the agency that she heads ..., has clearly stated that forced eviction is one of the main barriers to the significant improvement of slum dwellers."

Stepped up efforts by state media to paint Murambatsvina in a better light coincided with the announcement of Tibaijuka's visit.

Shortly before she arrived, Mugabe launched a reconstruction campaign to accommodate "deserving" people who lost their homes and livelihoods. He promised to build two million homes by 2010, a commitment economists doubt he can afford to keep at a time of economic free-fall.

The Herald did not report if Tibaijuka commented on the evictions, but it quoted her as saying the reconstruction programme "is good. The vision is clear."

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