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Squalor and despair in Mugabe hellhole

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  • pbs@iafrica.com
    From: WWW.AfricanCrisis.Org Ten toilets for 5000 people in resettlement camp for Zimbabweans whose livelihoods were destroyed in Operation Drive Out Rubbish
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 4, 2005
      From: WWW.AfricanCrisis.Org
      Ten toilets for 5000 people in resettlement camp for Zimbabweans whose
      livelihoods were destroyed in Operation Drive Out Rubbish

      Sunday Times Foreign Desk

      A glum and tired George Chawanda stands in a snaking queue at Caledonia
      farm waiting anxiously for his food rations. Around him emaciated women
      and children also wait patiently for the less-than-appealing sadza
      porridge and a few pieces of meat. The meal - and his new accommodation -
      are a world away from what Chawanda is used to. He was reduced overnight
      to a refugee in his own country by President Robert Mugabe�s Operation
      Murambatsvina (Drive Out Rubbish) blitz, which has left nearly a million
      people homeless. From a three-room shack and decent meals, Chawanda now
      has to eke out a living along with 5000 men, women and children in
      Caledonia, one of several transit camps set up to house the homeless. The
      conditions are squalid. There are just 10 toilets. The Times of London
      reported that aid workers said that diarrhoea had broken out in the camp.
      "There is disease there, like cholera, and people are dying there," the
      newspaper reported Nick Utano, an unemployed barber who escaped having to
      go to Caledonia, as saying. "The government is hiding it." But there was
      no escape for Chawanda, who branded Caledonia "hell". Before being
      displaced, he lived in a three-roomed shack and his family survived by
      selling tomatoes, vegetables, fruits, maize cobs and peanuts. He also
      used to work in informal industries that were part of a booming
      black-market economy. "I have been living in this place with my family
      for three weeks and it�s hell," he said. "Our families have been broken
      down by these displacements and living in this place is horrible. The
      meals are erratic and poor. That�s why we don�t understand how the
      government would destroy decent homes only to dump people in a refugee
      camp like this." Chawanda said his home in Mbare, Harare�s largest
      township, was "razed by a bulldozer which just ploughed through the
      houses". "It�s almost a month now since we were forcibly driven out of
      our homes. It was cruel. They came and stormed the homes, giving us five
      or 10 minutes to remove our possessions and leave," he said. "Those who
      resisted or dilly-dallied were beaten up and fled in terror."

      On Friday, United Nations special envoy Anna Tibaijuka visited Caledonia
      to see first-hand the effect that the crackdown had had. Those close to
      her team say she was horrified. She was also said to be shocked to
      personally witness the destruction of Porta Farm, a settlement on the
      outskirts of Harare. At least four people - two children, a heavily
      pregnant woman and an old woman - were reported to have died during the
      blitz. Porta Farm residents had been resettled there by the government
      after being displaced from Chiuru Farm before the Commonwealth Heads of
      Government Meeting in Harare in 1991.AFP reported that Tibaijuka
      criticised the Zimbabwean government after her visit on Friday, saying
      that while urban development was important, the government should have
      followed better procedures to avoid human misery.She said something had
      to be done for the displaced people. "I think it was very clear that they
      all seem anxious to get their lives improved," she said. "When I asked
      them if they were happy, I got a resounding no. So definitely there are
      challenges that we have to sort out." Her diplomatic comments are in
      stark contrast to most, which have branded the crackdown a violation of
      human rights. Pius Ncube, the outspoken Catholic Archbishop of Bulawayo,
      even compared Mugabe to the former Cambodian dictator Pol Pot and said
      the United Nations should arrest him and put him on trial. Meanwhile,
      Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe this week launched "Operation Live
      Well", which he said was a reconstruction campaign.

      Source: From The Sunday Times (SA), 3 July
      URL: WWW.ZwNews.Com
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