Operation Garikai a failure: Amnesty International

Augustine Mukaro


GOVERNMENT’S much-publicised Operation Garikai/Hlalani Kuhle has failed to redress the suffering of victims of its slum clearance blitz dubbed Operation Murambatsvina that left thousands homeless or without sources of income.

In its

report assessing progress a year after the forced evictions, Amnesty International (AI) said government’s Operation Garikai/Hlalani Kuhle, launched in June 2005, had failed to provide better housing for people who lost their homes during the so-called clean-up.

The findings, contained in two reports released yesterday, reveal that only 3 325 houses have been constructed compared to the 92 460 homes destroyed during the blitz.

The report noted that construction had ground to a halt in many areas. 

“Operation Garikai is a wholly inadequate response to the mass violations of 2005, and in reality has achieved very little,” said Kolawole Olaniyan, Amnesty International’s Africa programme director.

“Hundreds of thousands of people evicted during the operation have been left to find their own solutions to their homelessness. Very few houses have been constructed.”

Olaniyan said the majority of those designated as “built” were incomplete -— lacking doors, windows, floors and even roofs. They also do not have access to proper water or sanitation facilities.

“Many of the few houses that have been built are not only uninhabited, but uninhabitable,” the programme director said.

AI researchers said many people were being allocated small bare plots of land, often without access to water and sanitation, on which they had to build their own homes with no  state assistance. This was despite the fact that Operation Garikai had been presented as a programme under which government would build homes for victims of the blitz.

“In most parts of the country, no assessment has ever been carried out to identify the victims or to establish where they are now,” the report said.

“Government has made it clear that at least 20% of the houses will go to civil servants, police officers and soldiers — rather than those whose homes were demolished in Operation Murambatsvina.”

 The victims of Operation Murambatsvina were amongst the poorest people in Zimbabwe. The demolition of their homes drove them into deeper poverty after losing what little they had, such as clothes, furniture and even food.
 
“Now the Zimbabwean government is unabashedly asking them to pay for incomplete and sub-standard structures or for the stands on which to build a home at prices that would have been well beyond their reach even before their homes and livelihoods were destroyed last year,” said Olaniyan’s report.

In Victoria Falls, the reports said, researchers found a man living in a structure intended to be a toilet after his rental cottage was destroyed last year. Several thousand people are living in the open, or under makeshift shelters.

Currently, 83% of the population of Zimbabwe survives on much less than the UN income poverty line of US$2 a day. The unemployment rate stands at about 80%.

Amnesty International called for Operation Garikai to be subjected to an urgent and comprehensive review to bring it in line with the Zimbabwean government’s human rights obligations.