Zimbabwe’s clean-up blitz was ‘in the public interest’

The Zimbabwe government says it acted in the public interest when it launched a controversial urban clean-up campaign in May that was later condemned by the United Nations, the state-controlled Herald newspaper reported Wednesday.

In a 45-page response to the highly-critical report by UN envoy Anna Tibaijuka, President Robert Mugabe’s government also denied that it was responsible for the deaths of several people during clean-up operation, the paper said.

”Our urban built environment is envied by many on the continent and we are determined to maintain a well-built urban environment. The government believes it is in the public interest to so act,” the report said.

At the height of the operation, which was launched at the onset of the southern African winter, police bulldozed houses and flea markets that it said had been built illegally in towns and cities.

The UN said the police purge had made at least 700 000 homeless and jobless.

The operation sparked an outcry from Western countries, as well as from churches and human rights groups. In June, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan sent Tibaijuka to investigate the humanitarian impact of the blitz.

Tibaijuka said Operation Restore Order was a ”disastrous venture”.

”Police investigations on five cases showed that the people cited died as they were dismantling illegal structures,” the Zimbabwe government report said.

”Before the evictions were carried out, occupants were given the choice to voluntarily take down their illegal structures. Indeed, the majority of the people voluntarily took down their illegal structures,” it adds.

The Herald said the report claimed that the police operation was carried out to clamp down on things like the hoarding of scarce commodities, black marketeering and prostitution.

The operation was carried out in compliance with the government’s laws, the report said.

However, in her report in July, Tibaijuka said the government had used outdated colonial laws to carry out the blitz.

Mugabe’s government said Tibaijuka had used ”value-laden and judgemental language, which clearly demonstrated in-built bias” against it and the operation. – Sapa-DPA

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Onkgopotse Jj Tabane
Onkgopotse Jj Tabane works from Sandton. I am a communications expert and CEO of Sgwili Media Group. TV Anchor of 'Your View' on Channel 405 Author of 'Let's Talk Frankly'. Onkgopotse Jj Tabane has over 88880 followers on Twitter.

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