December 23, 2005

Houses for clean-up victims

The Zimbabwe government has handed over incomplete houses to homeless families in the farming town of Chinhoyi after more than 100 families were left without homes or means of livelihood after the government had destroyed their shantytown homes and informal business kiosks in a controversial urban clean-up campaign. President Robert Mugabe's government had before promised to build better houses for people displaced by the urban renewal exercise. But the Executive Mayor of Chinhoyi, lying 120km north-west of Harare, Ray Kapesa told some of the displaced families during a ceremony to hand over the incomplete houses to them that they would have to finish building the houses on their own because the government was broke. "As you all know that this programme had no resources, we are appealing to you to accept these houses as they are. Those who can afford to finish off the houses should please do so as a matter of urgency," said Kapesa. The admission by Kapesa, a senior member of the ruling Zanu PF party, that the government did not have money to build houses for people whose homes it demolished is the first time a senior official of either the government or Zanu PF has publicly conceded that the government does not have money to build homes for all the displaced families.
Before the handing over of the houses, the UN had offered to mobilise food aid and to provide temporary accommodation for victims of the clean-up exercise. But the Harare government has accepted the food and rejected the tents the UN was offering as temporary shelter, with Mugabe telling the world body's envoy, Jan Egeland, that "Zimbabweans were not tent people". Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo publicly criticized the UN - which has now agreed to help build temporary brick and asbestos houses for displaced Zimbabweans - of designing a sub-standard house model because the world body looks down upon Africans. Chombo, who called the semi-permanent house model an insult to Africans, vowed that the Harare government would not accept it, saying the UN should instead build permanent houses of at least two rooms each. But UNDP resident representative in Zimbabwe and the world body's humanitarian co-ordinator in the southern African nation, Agostinho Aquarius, dismissed Chombo's claims as insincere. Addressing journalists in Harare, the UN co-ordinator said the house model that the Local Government Minister was crying foul about was in fact designed by UN and Zimbabwean technicians. (Independent Online, Harare)

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