Augustine Mukaro/Godfrey Marawanyika
GOVERNMENT has rejected a United Nations draft emergency appeal document that could have provided immediate aid to over 300 000 people displaced under Operation Murambats
The US$30 million flash appeal to help the operation’s worst victims could not be endorsed earlier this week after government raised objections to a draft text of the document.
“It is with regret that I confirm today that I cannot launch an agreed appeal for these people evicted in Zimbabwe in the months of May, June and July predominantly,” UN undersecretary-general Jan Egeland told Associated Press last Friday.
Zimbabwe’s ambassador to the United Nations Boniface Chidyausiku was earlier in the week quoted by AP expressing worry over the funding of the appeal.
He said potential donors to the flash appeal the UN would seek money from “are the countries that are very vocal in trying to bring a regime-change to Zimbabwe”.
He added: “If they give any money to Zimbabwe, it’s for a political purpose and political gain,” Chidyausiku said. He said the country would welcome help to address the housing issue instead.
The UN was forced to rewrite the appeal, down-playing the requirements on the ground. Zimbabwe has also rejected the findings of the UN secretary-general Kofi Annan’s special envoy Anna Tibaijuka that blasted the disastrous clean-up operation which it said directly affected 700 000 people.
UN officials privy to the draft said Harare insisted the number of people affected by the demolition campaign had been inflated while the reconstruction exercise, Operation Garikai, was downplayed.
The “UN had no option but to agree to set up a joint committee to draft a new emergency appeal,” an official said. Government is represented by Public Service minister Nicholas Goche and Local Government minister Ignatious Chombo in the committee, among others.
The joint committee has been meeting since the beginning of the week to come up with a sweetened appeal document.
“We made substantial progress during our meeting with the government of Zimbabwe and hope that by the end of the week we will have a reworked text,” a UN official participating in the negotiations said, adding: Government also wants the new text to acknowledge that it has taken action to assist those who have been affected, and that both sides need to take a closer look at the number of people affected by the operation.”
The new appeal will still be brought before traditional donors for financing.The UN estimates that 18% of the country’s population was affected by the evictions and the crackdown on informal traders that began in May.
Government claims that only around 200 000 people were affected.
“The UN wants government to firstly agree on a humanitarian plan,” the official said. “Once that is done, a joint team will proceed to assess how many people were affected by the campaign, but that will be done while we continue to help those in need.”
Action-Aid, one of the non-governmental organisations working with the displaced people, estimates the affected to be not less than 1,5 million. In a report released in July, the international development NGO said although it was difficult to quantify the damage caused by the clean-up operation in monetary terms, there were major losses across a broad front, ranging from shelter, income and schooling.
The NGO argued that greater detail on the impact of the operation was required for relief assistance to be effective.
Goche could not be reached for comment as he was said to be out of office.
Public Service deputy minister Abedinico Ncube promised to respond to this paper’s enquiries but had not done so by the time of going to print.