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UN: Evictions in Zimbabwe Continue

A special United Nations investigator accuses the Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe's government of continuing to evict poor people from slum dwellings, despite statements to the contrary. The expert, Miloon Kothari, criticizes African and international leaders for doing little to stop, what he calls, the ongoing tragedy.

U.N. special investigator, Miloon Kothari, says Zimbabwe's so-called urban clean-up campaign has not ended. He says evictions are still happening, but on a smaller scale.

A United Nations report issued last month found the campaign has left an estimated 700,000 Zimbabweans without homes and livelihoods. The report condemned the demolitions that it said were carried out in an indiscriminate and unjustified manner, with indifference to human suffering.

Mr. Kothari, the U.N.'s special envoy on the Right to Adequate Housing, says since the report came out, there has been no move on the part of the government to resettle or compensate those who were forcibly evicted from their homes.

"I think the silence of major governments in Africa continues to be shocking and of influential individuals like Nelson Mandela. I do not understand why they do not speak out. There is a kind of cover-up that is there as far as President Mugabe is concerned," he said.

Mr. Kothari also criticizes international leaders such as the Prime Ministers of India and Brazil for not speaking out against President Mugabe's actions. The U.N. official says the humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe continues to be grave. He says people are sleeping on the streets in freezing temperatures, they have no jobs, and they are short of food.

The government justifies its so-called "drive out the filth" campaign on the grounds that the people were corrupt, that they were illegal traders who did not pay taxes. Mr. Kothari says this is no justification. He tells VOA President Mugabe has to change course if he wants to avert a disaster.

"You cannot rule a country by arbitrarily demolishing thousands and thousands of peoples homes," he added. "You cannot rule a country by not including people in the plans that you have. You cannot always rely on outside sources. I mean, he is relying on the Chinese, for example, to shore up your economy. The economy was there. The informal economy was actually sustaining the Zimbabwean economy. But, that economy was systematically destroyed by the demolitions."

On Monday, President Mugabe invited U.N. Secretary-General, Kofi Annan to visit Zimbabwe so he could, as he said, appreciate what his government was trying to do for his people in the sphere of housing and informal business.

Mr. Kothari, an Indian legal expert, says he too would like to be invited to visit Zimbabwe. He says he would like to work with the government toward achieving a more humane housing policy.