SWEDEN will next year increase its humanitarian assistance to Zimbabwe by over US$2 million, but none of this aid will go towards government’s housing project Operation Garikai/ Hlalani Kuhle.
Operation Garikai is largely seen as a cosmetic project which President Robert Mugabe undertook to cover up the destruction caused by the widely-condemned Operation Murambatsvina which robbed over 700 000 people of their shelters and sources of livelihood.
Göran Engstrand, Minister for Development Co-operation at the Embassy of Sweden in Harare, revealed the aid package during a tour of the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida)-funded child rights projects in Murehwa last week.
Sida earlier this year approved 20 million Swedish kroner to fund development projects in Zimbabwe.
“Admittedly, most of the allocation will be targeted at those affected by the recent Operation Murambatsvina through NGOs and multilateral agencies,” said Engstrand. We will also not lose sight of some of the ongoing work benefiting over two million children throughout Zimbabwe.
“Consequently, some of the support will boost the support already received by organisations dealing with child rights such as Sahrit, the Scripture Union and the Farm Orphan Support Trust,” he said.
Engstrand refuted recent claims by state media that “Sweden was also looking at how best it would assist in Operation Garikai/Hlalani Kuhle Phase Two (housing programme) that government launched”.
“This is not correct. The correct position is that we will continue working with NGOs and other multilateral agencies to alleviate the plight of those affected by Operation Murambatsvina,” said Engstrand.
Sweden’s humanitarian support is funnelled through multilateral agencies and non-governmental organisations.
Last month Japan chipped in with a 150 million yen (US$1,3 million) aid package for the purchase of 3 600 tonnes of maize to help Zimbabweans affected by food shortages.
Sweden’s refusal to support Operation Garikai comes on the back of United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan’s criticism of President Mugabe for rejecting international aid to help thousands of people facing starvation and homelessness.
The plight of the homeless is set to worsen with the onset of the rainy season. The slum clearance exercise that began in May left many informal settlers in the cold during winter.
Government is trapped in a Catch-22 situation as Operation Garikai struggles to complete 200 000 housing units countrywide with few resources on the ground. This seems to suggest it will fail to meet the December target it set itself.