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Editor’s Memo

Darfur, Ivory Coast, Harare…
Vincent Kahiya

UNITED Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan still has plans to visit Zimbabwe even though he did not find it necessary to pass through Harare during his tour of southern Africa this week.
/STRONG>The government, which last year told us Annan would come to Zimbabwe in March, was on Wednesday quick to tell us that the UN boss still had plans to visit on a “date convenient to him”.
Zimbabwe was not on the menu during the current trip.

In South Africa, Annan made vague disclosures about his desire to visit Zimbabwe, not on his current trip, but on a special visit, to “discuss issues” with the Zimbabwean authorities.

South African media quoted him as saying; “The situation in Zimbabwe is extremely difficult. It’s difficult for the Zimbabweans, it’s difficult for the region and it’s difficult for the world.”

The situation is so untenable that it calls for a separate trip to southern Africa! Taken in this context, the impending visit elevates the Zimbabwean crisis to that of Darfur in Sudan or Ivory Coast which have warranted special visits by the secretary-general.

President Robert Mugabe had invited Annan to come to Zimbabwe to see for himself the “great” work that has been done under Operation Garikai and that the orgy of destruction under Operation Murambatsvina had not caused any humanitarian crisis.
So the feverish activity under Operation Garikai was designed to prove to Annan that his special envoy Anna Tibaijuka’s report on the humanitarian crisis caused by Operation Murambatsvina, was “one-sided” as Zimbabweans were happy with the destruction of their homes and sources of livelihood!

But the government would like to use the visit as a publicity stunt. I am sure our rulers can already visualise Annan cutting the ribbon to hand over completed houses at White Cliff in Harare or Cowdray Park in Bulawayo.
Annan would commend Zimbabwe’s valiant fight to end housing shortages while Mugabe nods approvingly by his side. Dream on.

As we said mid-last year following publication of the Tibaijuka report, the government was pushing the frontiers of wishful-thinking too far by expecting Annan to second guess his envoy and commend, instead of condemning, Zimbabwe.

The follow-up visit by Jan Egeland confirmed the Tibaijuka findings and exposed the inadequacies of Operation Garikai.

When President Mugabe virulently attacked Egeland at the Zanu PF conference in December in Esigodini, and when the party declared that Zimbabwe would not welcome any more envoys from the UN, the government already knew Annan would not be setting foot in Harare. This took the shine out of Operation Garikai as Annan was not coming to cut the ribbon soon. Activity around the construction projects has slowed down. People are being allocated incomplete houses with no running water or sewerage system.

Meanwhile, at Hopley Farm victims of Murambatsvina are still sheltered under plastic shacks waiting for proper accommodation. They stand very little chance of being allocated the few houses that have been built because the match box structures have either been hijacked by politicians or are being allocated to Zanu PF supporters.

This is true even if Local Government minister, Ignatious Chombo, tried to deny it in January. This is what he told the state media then: “The allocation of houses built under Operation Garikai/Hlalani Kuhle is going on very well and the houses have been benefiting the intended beneficiaries, those who were affected by the clean-up campaign.

“We have made sure that those who benefited from the programme did not have houses elsewhere and we have a database where information about those who have houses is kept and if an individual cheated his way to get a house, then we will get him.”

But this week he had jumped on the anti-corruption bandwagon, singing a completely different song.

“We already have problems in Beitbridge, Bulawayo, Gwanda and other areas where undeserving people have been allocated houses…” Chombo disclosed.

“Therefore, councils should remove the names of their (government officials, their relatives, MPs, politicians) relatives from the operation’s waiting list,” he was quoted as saying in the Herald on Tuesday.

And then in an explicit summation of the state of government’s housing delivery programme, Chombo in the same article, said Garikai houses were for people who say unondiwana pamusika (you will find me at the market) when asked about their residential addresses. What a shame for a government which claimed Operation Murambatsvina had not created a major humanitarian crisis. Do we need Annan here to get decent accommodation?

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