ZIMBABWE: Operation Live Well struggles to take off
HARARE, 19 August (IRIN) - The painful lesson of the government's urban cleanup campaign, launched three months ago in defiance of international opinion, is that it is much easier to destroy shanty homes than to build the victims proper accommodation.
A UN report estimated that Operation Murambatsvina ('Clean Out Garbage') - which the government said was aimed at clearing slums and flushing out criminals - left more than 700,000 people homeless or without jobs after kicking off in mid-May.
Beginning in July, its successor, Operation Garikai/Hlalani Kuhle (Live Well), under which the authorities promised to provide the deserving displaced with decent and affordable accommodation, has barely scratched the surface of those in need. "What we have observed so far is that the government lacks the capability to avail accommodation to people who were affected by Operation Murambatsvina, and one is justified in being sceptical about the whole project," said Mike Davis, chairman of the Combined Harare Residents' Association. "A lot of money was spent in destroying the structures - some of them not classic shanties as government officials would want us to believe - and these authorities now have a bigger financial and logistical burden to honour their promise to provide acceptable housing," Davis noted.
But according to humanitarian officials, although cash-strapped, the government is quibbling over the wording of a "flash appeal" to international donors to help fund assistance to the homeless. "The government reacted negatively to the language of the flash appeal - they said it was too harsh and seems to imply Zimbabwe is facing an emergency," said one aid worker. "They're in denial; they don't want to acknowledge that this is a humanitarian issue, they want to present it as a normal housing development programme." There are three recognised reconstruction sites around the capital, Harare: Hatcliffe Extension, from where 17,000 people were originally evicted under the cleanup programme, and Whitecliff and Hopely farms....
A member of one brigade, who identified himself simply as Chamu, said they had managed to dig foundations for a total of 200 houses. "We are supposed to build houses for 4,000 people, even though I understand that there should be a total of 15,000 housing units at Hatcliffe.
Some beneficiaries of Operation Garikai have been given four sheets of corrugated asbestos per family for roofing, but the way I see it, that will not be enough, meaning that residents will have to use their own money to buy extra material," said Chamu.
Most of the residents who returned to Hatcliffe have set up makeshift shelters next to their demolished homes, using whatever building materials they could scrounge. There is no running water after a World Bank-funded scheme was destroyed in the cleanup operation. "Here and there some young mothers are sleeping in the open with their babies, as they do not have plastic sheets to build huts.
It is so tragic that all these residents had adequate, if flimsy, shelter three months ago, and now many cannot afford to replace even the basic shelter," wrote opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) member of parliament for the area, Trudy Stevenson.
"What confuses us is that when we came here several years ago, the government gave us title deeds, but said we should not build permanent structures. Maybe the reason why they returned us here was that they knew that we were legally entitled to our stands," said Hatcliffe resident Simon Munyoro.
.... Timothy Mucheneripi (not his real name), a worker at the site, told IRIN that the irregular supply of cement was hampering construction. "Given the rate at which we are going, the rains might come without much progress, even though we have been told to speed up the construction of the first phase of houses because they should be occupied by civil servants." Davis pointed out that even if the promised construction of new houses in Harare were to be completed, the municipality lacked the capacity to provide adequate sewerage systems, as the existing network was already seriously overloaded.
Most of the publicity was given to a few Harare suburbs...what is not mentioned is that a similar "clean up" occured in smaller towns, and according to my private sources, even rural market places were destroyed.. also not mentioned is that many of the displaced were ordered to go back to their villages, where food is already short thanks to the drought...and of course, since the press in Zim is controlled, and reporters are not allowed in, few reports are coming out of rural areas...