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11 June 2007
I write as I please - biweekly column by Wilf Mbanga

Two years after bulldozers tore into urban residential areas, the majority of the 700,000 victims of Operation Murambatsvina are still sleeping in the open.

During the brutal destruction of nearly 100 000 homes in the low income residential areas of Zimbabwe's main cities, hundreds of thousands of families were carted off to remote rural areas in government trucks and abandoned or stuck into overcrowded, unsanitary holding camps on former commercial farms. There was no water, no electricity, no shelter, no food, no schools, no medical care.

A further 2,6 million people were directly affected by the home demolitions, according to the United Nations.

At the time, the government of Robert Mugabe said it was planning to re-house the people in 'proper' houses and had destroyed their shanties because they were uninhabitable. But two years on, with the victims facing a third bitter winter, the government has only managed to build 3,325 tiny core houses - many of which are still unfinished, with no water, electricity or sewerage facilities.

Certainly, it is easier to destroy than to build.

The regime now admits that it does not have the resources to finish the houses and has abandoned the re-construction project.

But it will not allow anybody else to step into the breach. "The government continues to obstruct humanitarian efforts by the UN and by local and international organisations," says a recently released UN report on Operation Murambatsvina.

Last week the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions said in a statement: "The magnitude of the crimes committed during Operation Murambatsvina deserved an international response."
The Centre implored the United Nations Security Council to find ways of punishing those responsible.

The callous statement by Mugabe that Zimbabweans 'are not tent people' in response to a UN offer of assistance to provide at least some shelter for those displaced, is indeed deserving of punishment. Tents would at least protect people from rain, wind and cold. It seems Mugabe would prefer to see thinly-clad, malnourished children shivering in the open rather than accept international offers of help.

This extreme inhumanity would seem to confirm allegations that the clean-up operation had absolutely nothing to do with urban clean up and everything to do with punishing urban dwellers for daring to prefer being ruled by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change rather than by the corrupt and tyrannical Zanu (PF) regime which has made their life a hell on earth for so long.

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Wilf Mbanga, one of the founders of the independent Zimbabwean daily newspaper "The Daily News", is currently living in the UK. He writes about the current situation in Zimbabwe.


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