ZIMBABWE HUMAN RIGHTS NGO FORUM – PRESS RELEASE

Zimbabwe ignores UN over urban demolitions

Some 18 months after launching a brutal campaign of urban demolitions and forced evictions, the government of Zimbabwe has ignored all the recommendations contained in a highly critical United Nations report, the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum said in a report entitled “Political Repression disguised as Civic Mindedness: Operation Murambatsvina One Year Later” which it published on 30 November 2006.

The Forum, in a 45-page audit of events since the so-called Operation Murambatsvina or Operation Clean Up Filth, urged international action over the Mugabe government’s long record of disregarding international conventions. Zimbabwe must be discussed at the UN Security Council, it added.

``It can legitimately be asked of the international community, how long will it accept that this is the behaviour of a responsible member of the community of nations?’’ the Forum said. ``And, furthermore, what action of the Zimbabwe government will finally invoke the doctrine of the Responsibility to Protect imposed on the international community?’’

UN Special Envoy Anna Tibaijuka, in a report released in July 2005, said the demolition of thousands of dwellings and makeshift stalls was a ``catastrophe’’ which had robbed 700,000 people of their homes and livelihoods. She made 12 recommendations, including prosecutions of those responsible, a proper reconstruction programme, compensation for victims, and that the Zimbabwe authorities facilitate humanitarian operations.

The Forum said that none of this has happened: the authorities have obstructed humanitarian aid; the official reconstruction programme is a ``complete fiasco’’ riddled with corruption and nepotism; hundreds of thousands continue to live in deplorable conditions in camps; and evictions have continued.

The Zimbabwe government’s argument that the operation was for the benefit of the people is shown to be false, said the report. The informal sector remains as it is, corruption has increased at all levels, there is no meaningful rehousing, and the economy has worsened.

But, said the Forum, if the real motive was to suppress opposition, then it had succeeded by making it more difficult to organise anti-government protests.

``For the ordinary Zimbabwean, it matters little whether the Zimbabwe government is malevolent or incompetent, or both; all that they can look forward to is a life of extreme hardship, and the certainty that any complaint about their lot will be met with brutal repression and denial from a government that few believe has a legitimate right to be in power,’’ the report said

The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum is a coalition of 16 human rights NGOs working towards the elimination of organised violence and torture in Zimbabwe.