On June 2, in a speech to the World Economic Forum in Cape Town, President Mkapa stated his views on what was happening in Zimbabwe under President Robert Mugabe. Quoted at length in the Government-owned ‘Zimbabwe Herald’, he said he felt emotional about Zimbabwe and particularly about what he saw as the West’s unjust criticism. As he would be leaving office in a few months’ time, he now felt free to speak out. He said continued hostility towards Zimbabwe was a resuscitation of old prejudices against the country’s firm determination to manage its own affairs. “All we hear are sanctimonious and pious statements that are totally abhorrent. I mean every word of it,” he said, in apparent reference to the criticism and bad press Zimbabwe continues to endure.
Mkapa said Zimbabwe`s land reform programme was justified given the historical background. The few anomalies in its implementation, that were now being corrected, included the fate of farm workers on farms that had been designated, but these did not make illegitimate the need to redistribute land. He criticised attempts by some journalists to compare Zimbabwe and Tanzania stressing that the latter had only been occupied by a few settlers who were sympathetic to the cause of the Tanzanians. In Zimbabwe, indigenous people had been forced off fertile land and were denied their rights during colonial rule. “The history of our two countries is different and, therefore, the path to restoring the voice and ownership of the countries will be different”. Mkapa also refuted suggestions that the ruling Zanu-PF had rigged the 2005 parliamentary elections.
After the launch on May 19 of what the Zimbabwean Government called a ‘Clean-up Operation’ which involved the demolition of large numbers of shops and dwellings all over the country, President Mkapa justified this too, according to the Herald. It was necessary, he said, to deal with some of the activities compounding economic problems facing the country and to wipe out a growing secondary economy. The police and local authorities had been demolishing illegal settlements, flea markets and other unauthorised business operations, most of whose owners were actively involved in the black market for foreign currency and basic commodities.
TWO TANZANIANS ARE SENT TO SEE WHAT IS HAPPENING
On June 21 the UN’s Information office publication IRIN reported that UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan had decided to send a special envoy to assess human settlement issues in Zimbabwe. His envoy was a Tanzanian – Dr. Anna Tibaijuka, the Executive Director of UN-HABITAT in Nairobi.
Shortly after her arrival the ‘Zimbabwe Independent’ reported that she had been shocked by what she had seen and had condemned the role of the police and army in the ‘clean-up’ operation. The paper went on: ‘Government has been making frantic efforts to turn a demolition campaign into a development initiative, but Tibaijuka has resisted manipulation. After separately meeting President Mugabe and three government ministers and civic groups, she ‘came out with her guns blazing against the operation.’ A huge internal refugee population had been created and displaced people were being held at transit camps nationwide. Mrs Tibaijuka was quoted as saying: “The people are not here (in urban areas) because they want to be but because they are trying to get a living.” She added: “I was born in a rural area, but I now work in Dar-es-Salaam. There is no way the Government can relegate the people to the rural areas where there is poverty….. the poor work hard and they should not be criminalised.” Tibaijuka said Zimbabwe had had no serious problem with illegal settlements and for that reason UN HABITAT did not have an office in the country – Africa had a slum rate of 72% but Zimbabwe had a rate of only 3.4%.
However, a Zimbabwe Minister said “Since we embarked on the exercise, crime has fallen drastically and we have recovered goods worth millions of dollars from the illegal structures and we believe they were harbouring criminals.”
While Mrs Tibaijuka was conducting her survey another Tanzanian – Mr Bahame Nyanduka – arrived in Zimbabwe having been sent by the African Union on a similar mission. But he was allowed to spend only a few days in a hotel in Harare before being told to leave as his visit was not ‘protocolly correct’. When told of this he expressed surprise. The Government said it was preoccupied with the visit by Mrs Tibaijuka and that it could not accommodate a concurrent itinerary for such a high-ranking AU official at such short notice.
‘A CRISIS OF IMMENSE PROPORTIONS’
Mrs Tibaijuka later published a 98-page report on her visit. This concluded that 2.4 million people had been indirectly affected, of whom 700,000 had lost their homes or livelihoods or both, in a humanitarian crisis of ‘immense proportions’. The clearances were a ‘disastrous adventure…..while purporting to target illegal dwellings and structures and to clamp down on alleged illicit activities, the operation was being carried out in an indiscriminate manner, with indifference to human suffering, and, in repeated cases, with disregard to several provisions of national and international legal frameworks’. The report said the operation was popularly referred to locally as ‘Operation Tsunami’ because of its speed and ferocity. The vast majority of those affected were the poorer and disadvantaged segments of the population. They were today deeper in poverty, deprivation and destitution…..’ Mrs Tibaijuka suggested that those suspected of responsibility – she did not identify them – should be tried in Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe’s Foreign Minister dismissed the UN rebuke as ‘biased and wrong’. It had used ‘judgmental language’ that had demonstrated its ‘in-built bias against the Operation.’
President Mugabe was quoted as saying that Mrs Ttibaijuka had told him that Britain forced her to write a critical report, something which was vigorously denied by the British Ambassador to the UN in New York.
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said the report was “profoundly distressing” according to The London Guardian.
TANZANIA SAYS NO
Mrs Tibaijuka was allowed to brief a closed-door meeting of the UN Security Council on July 27 on her report but this was only after Tanzania and the other two African members, Algeria and Benin, plus China and Russia, had voted against her being able to do so. Nine Council members voted in favour of hearing her. Brazil abstained.
Tibaijuka defended her role after she had been criticized as working at the behest of the British and said she had not been pressured.
The Zimbabwe Independent later reported that there had been a ‘fierce debate’ in the country’s parliament on the Tibaijuka report. Independent MP and recently resigned cabinet minister Jonathan Moyo said the report was a true reflection of the situation on the ground. The operation had been madness….. “each and every one of us here knows someone who is suffering from this.” He likened the situation to the crises in Nigeria under Sani Abacha and Uganda under Idi Amin. One opposition MP reminded government leaders of how Mobutu of Zaire had died and was buried in a “very small grave in Morocco”.