Monday, July 25, 2005

Mugabe fiddles, Zimbabweans burn

The Toronto Star offers an article on the demolitions in Zimbabwe. The reporter found this quote from the country's information minister, George Charamba, in the magazine New Africa: "What Zimbabwe has sought to do is remarkably mundane to a point of not being newsworthy. Clearance of slums is an abiding feature and dynamic of urban settlement, in fact as mundane as the appearance of slums themselves."

Lovely: The fact that 700,000 people have been made homeless and five to 15 percent of the economy destroyed by government decree is humdrum stuff.

In other matters, UN envoy Anna Tibaijuka's report on Zimbabwe is now available in a pdf version here.

Here's one of her key findings: "the Government clearly violated its own national laws and the constitutional rights of its people, and that those responsible must be brought to remains the strong recommendation of the Special Envoy that the culprits who have caused this man-made disaster are best handled and brought to book under Zimbabwean national laws." And also: "evictions took place before alternatives could be provided, thereby violating human rights and several provisions of national and international law." Strong words from the usually circumspect UN.

Another interesting observation in the report: one-third of the people evicted are immigrants who never became citizens of Zimbabwe. Instead, they are long time residents who came to Zimbabwe from neighboring countries seeking work. Tibaijuka recommends that these people immediately be made citizens and given rights.

Oddly, though most observers (and most newspapers) translate Zimbabwe's Operation Murambatsvina as "Operation Drive Out Trash," the UN doesn't. Tibaijuka instead prefers "Operation Restore Order." Does anyone know the reason for this discrepancy?

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