Monday, July 25, 2005

Politics not perspective; Zim government's response to the UN report

The UN report on Zimbabwe conjured up a great deal of emotions and responses over the weekend, but it doesn't do much more than that.

There's more good news for Mugabe & Co in the report than there is for the MDC and critics of the cleanup. Mugabe can rejoice in that the report endorses his pursuits as noble i.e. trying to clean up the cities, which it adds, is vital to the development agenda. The report falls just short of presenting Mugabe with a medal of honor for hitherto mantaining cities with the lowest slum prevalence. But the report is lacking on a tangible basis for the illegality of the operation, another thing Mugabe can rejoice over.

For the MDC (which not only volunteered information and legal expertese to Tibiajuka's mission, but extended open arms to the report) and critics of the operation, the report hardly offers any respite. Tibaijuka's service to this side of the divide only goes so far as to put the UN's official stamp on their estimates of the number of people affected by the cleanup, it and encouraging international involvement in the humanitarian (not political) crisis in Zimbabwe. The report does not condemn ZANU-PF for the operation sharply enough to condone their cause. The report conspicuously avoids aligning itself to the clarion calls of the opposition and human rights activist i.e. finding Mugabe & Co. incorrigably corrupt to warrant regime change. A true disservice to a worthy cause if there ever was one.

There are only two positives, if any at all, from this report; the best thing the report does is present a fairly thorough contextual appraisal of the situation on the ground in Zimbabwe without which an authentic (and unprejudiced) exploration of options is possible. The report can also be applauded for encouraging action to avert the humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe.

Apparently appeased by "warmth and hospitality" of Mugabe & Co., Tibaijuka and her clan drew up a report which is neutral at best. The report languidly slaps the Mugabe regime on the hand for violating a handful of human rights, and chides them for the suffering endured by the "evictees." Meanwhile it absolves the Zimbabwean government of any legal violations and even discourages pursuit of the culpability of the Mugabe regime as a whole for this operation.

"The outcome of the legal analysis was complex. But concluded that with available evidence it would be difficult to sustain that crimes against humanity were committed." p.65
Regardless of its' infirmities, the report has become a matter of controversy. As soon as the UN report was made public late last week, many deluded responses were proffered from numerous quarters. Each of these reviews either praised or damned the report depending on which side of the political divide the responders are sympathetic to, regardless of whether these demagogues had read the report or not.

I'll address the vampant criticism of the report which emanated from the ZANU-PF government first.

Early Saturday morning The Herald carried a report in which Mugabe's foreign affairs minister, Simbarashe Mumbengegwi zealously misfired thus;

"The report demonstrates hostility to the operation through visual aids like the pictures that depict the City of Harare from colonial times up to the clean-up conducted under the operation.

It deliberately leaves out pictures of Harare after the operation because such pictures of Harare after the operation would show massive construction going on under Operation Garikai/Hlallani Kuhle and consequent sanity, which now prevails, countrywide."
Massive construction going on? Where, and how? Even I am ashamed to refer to the two roomed houses the government is building as a "construction" initiative.

Then he went on to drop this gem,

"Before the evictions were carried out, occupants were given the choice to voluntarily take down their illegal structures."
But what about this from the report;

"The testimonies provided to the mission suggest that this did not happen in many cases. In some cases, as little as a few hours notice was given, leaving people unable to take action and resulting in the destruction of property as houses were demolished116. Some evictees had to leave their property behind because there was no room in the trucks used to transport them to transit camps.117 What was not collected was set on fire by the police in many cases." p.58
For his part, Mugabe, who did not read the report, feeling obliged to respond unwittingly echoed his party line that the report was biased. Monday's Herald has a long article which extensively quotes presidential spokesman George Charamba:

"He (President) said the successor programme to the clean-up exercise, Operation Garikai/Hlalani Kuhle, has been receiving attention while Mrs Tibaijuka’s report does not refer to it," said Cde Charamba.

Cde Mugabe indicated to Mr Annan that his envoy had also gone out of her terms of reference by encouraging dialogue between the Government and civil society when, in actual effect, she meant dialogue between Zanu-PF and the opposition MDC.

"The President reminded Mr Annan of British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s comments when Mrs Tibaijuka was appointed special envoy," said Cde Charamba.

Mr Blair said he hoped Mrs Tibaijuka — who is in the British prime minister’s Commission for Africa — would produce a "good" report which London and its Western allies could use against Zimbabwe at the UN Security Council for alleged human rights violation."
No mention of Operation Garikai? Excuse me Mr. President. I think not; Operation Garikai is mentioned a whopping 25 times in the report, including this explanation of why it's not going to work;

"The Government of Zimbabwe was not able to produce any written documentation showing that the Operation was planned. This means that evictions took place before alternatives could be provided, thereby violating human rights and several provisions of national and international law.

The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, to which Zimbabwe is a party, clearly states that a government cannot forcibly evict people without having made alternative plans to house them." p.74
The restoration operation is not going to work because it was not planned for before hand!

And that, dear reader, is the illustrative anatomy of how politics is clouding perspective in Zimbabwe.

  • << Home