UN special envoy begins mission
United NATIONS special envoy Mrs Anna Tibaijuka, who is in the country to assess the clean-up operation, yesterday met President Mugabe as she began her mission.
Mrs Tibaijuka, a special envoy of UN secretary-general Mr Kofi Annan, met President Mugabe before touring some parts of Harare such as Mbare where the clean-up operation was undertaken.
She later witnessed the launch of Operation Garikai, a massive reconstruction programme aimed at providing decent housing and business premises to replace those destroyed during the clean-up operation.
The UN envoy described her meeting with President Mugabe at State House as constructive.
Cde Mugabe said he briefed her on the objectives of the clean-up operation which Government had long intended to implement.
He said the operation was put on hold until after the March election as Government felt it would have been deemed to be a campaign to disenfranchise opposition MDC supporters in urban areas.
Cde Mugabe said the programme was not aimed at urban areas alone but also rural areas and that was the reason he established the Ministry of Rural Housing and Social Amenities.
President Mugabe lambasted attempts by British Prime Minister Mr Tony Blair to use human rights to demonise the clean-up operation and influence Mrs Tibaijuka how to carry out her mission.
"That’s Blair again in his own true colours. He wants to own Habitat. Habitat does not belong to him but to the UN and she (Mrs Tibaijuka) does not belong to him," he said.
The President said he told Mrs Tibaijuka, who is the executive director of UN Habitat, that the clean-up operation might bring discomfort but in the end it would ensure people lived comfortably.
He also told her that Government had launched a massive reconstruction programme and she hoped the State had adequate funding.
The President assured her Government would go out of its way to ensure funding was available.
The Minister of Information and Publicity Cde Tichaona Jokonya said it was unfortunate for Mr Blair to try and use human rights and rule of law issues to demonise Zimbabwe on the clean-up operation and provision of decent houses which was presented to the United Nations in 1996.
In an interview with Newsnet on Tuesday, Cde Jokonya said Mr Blair should not tarnish the image of the UN by claiming that he was using Mrs Tibaijuka to produce a negative report that would damage Zimbabwe’s human rights record.
Cde Jokonya made the remarks in the wake of comments by Mr Blair that the report by the UN envoy should help mobilise international opinion against Zimbabwe’s clean-up operation which Britain and her allies were using to demonise the country alleging human rights abuse.
The detractors were also drumming up support that Zimbabwe should be discussed at the UN Security Council on these grounds.
Cde Jokonya also said the issues of in- creasing squalor and the need to clean up was not a new topic to the UN as Zimbabwe notified the world body about its housing crisis and appealed for assistance as far back as 1996 but the help had not been forthcoming.
He pointed out that Zimbabwe submitted a State party report on the implementation of the economic, social and cultural rights on September 25 1996 under articles 16 and 17 of the UN international convention on economic, social and cultural rights.
Mr Blair on Monday said he welcomed the appointment of "someone who was actually a Commissioner for the Commission for Africa, whom I know".
He was referring to Mrs Tibaijuka and said her appointment would give the Security Council an opportunity to discuss Zimbabwe.
". . . and (Mrs Tibaijuka) is a decent person and will do a good job I think, but to report back on what is happening there, and we need then to mobilise international concern and support."
But Mrs Tibaijuka said the report she would produce after her tour of duty in Zimbabwe would be for Mr Annan.
"Frankly speaking, the report we are writing is for the secretary-general. I have not really talked to anyone other than the secretary-general," she told journalists after being asked to comment on Mr Blair’s remarks.
Later, she toured Mupedzanhamo Flea Market, Joburg Lines and the new vending stalls at Siyaso in Mbare.
Most Mbare residents who spoke to her and her delegation expressed satisfaction that the clean-up operation was welcome although it might cause difficulties to residents such as the unavailability of accommodation.
Her first port of call was at Mupedzanhamo Market where former traders explained to her how the market operated before the clean-up operation.
Vendors at the market mostly specialised in the selling of second-hand clothes. It is being renovated before the vendors are allocated places.
"The mayor told me that once everything is ready, you are going back to business," said Mrs Tibaijuka.
She later went to the new Siyaso Complex where she toured several stalls.
"What do you want the Government to do for you?" Mrs Tibaijuka asked the traders, to which they replied that they wanted enough places to operate from so that they can expand their businesses.
In the Joburg Lines, where shacks were pulled down during the clean-up operation, one elderly woman explained to the envoy that she was renting a small house for $2 million a month and she was living in one room with her five sons and five daughters and their small children.
"We have nothing against the clean-up operation but we feel that the Government could have given us enough time to pull down the cabins and find alternative accommodation," she said.
Mrs Tibaijuka also later toured the vegetable market near the bus terminus where she was shown produce for sale from different parts of the country.
Before the tour, she paid a courtesy call on Harare Commission chairperson Sekesayi Makwavarara at Town House.
Local Government, Public Works and Urban Development Minister Cde Ignatius Chombo and council officials accompanied the UN envoy on the tour.
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