In 2005 the ZANU PF led government embarked on a purge of settlements largely in opposition controlled urban areas under the guise of a clean-up operation led by Local government Minister, Ignatius Chombo. This clean-up campaign became known as Operation Murambatsvina, an exercise that demonstrated the ruthlessness of the regime against its people. The effects of Murambatsvina were felt on a global scale to the extent that the UN sent the Special Envoy on Human Settlements, Anna Kajumulo Tibaijuka to investigate the matter independently.
Tibaijuka came in amid hype and the government hijacked her visit I presume in a bid to convince her to produce a favourable report. Minister Chombo took it upon himself to put a positive spin on the sufferings of the people as a result of government’s action by taking the Commissioner to the shoddy houses in Whitecliff as a model to address the housing crisis. I remember vividly ZBC news senior reporter, Rueben Barwe doing an exclusive coverage of the Special Envoy, giving nothing but praises. I suppose that was part of the spin to hoodwink her into believing that it was okay to destroy people’s homes and livelihoods.
I see that ZANU PF has not learnt anything since Tibaijuka’s visit. It is using the same old tried, tested and failed method to get a favourable report on the human rights situation in Zimbabwe by trying to manipulate the itinerary of the visiting United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navanethem Pillay who is in Zimbabwe on a five day visit. In the process they have used dirty tricks to try to bar the Commissioner from having independent meetings with civil society. Surely the Commissioner has to make an independent assessment by meeting all stakeholders, even if ZANU PF thinks some of them are the “enemies”, in order to come up with a credible report. Attempts by the ZBC to label Civil Society as anti-government is cheap and embarrassing to say the least.
Even after attempting to waylay Tibaijuka, her report was spot-on and highlighted gross human rights violations perpetrated by the Zimbabwe government. The obvious response was that Tibaijuka was under pressure from Western governments to produce such an adverse report. Murambatsvina happened in the eyes of everyone and the evidence was all there for people to see. Even after attempting to paint a rosy picture from a government perspective that there are no human rights violations in Zimbabwe, the evidence is all there for people to see.
What the government needs to acknowledge, which the Prime Minister did, is that even with the Inclusive Government there are still human rights violations in Zimbabwe. No action or programme has been put in place to address politically motivated violence against women and it is that responsibility that we need the inclusive government to commit to ending. Teachers continue to live in fear in their communities and are subjected to the excesses of traditional leaders, councilors, SDC officials and even fellow teachers because they are viewed as opposition supporters. War veterans e.g. Jabulani Sibanda, go about beating people in the rural areas and tell them to vote for ZANU PF or else… and they are not prosecuted. Chipangano has terrorized the Mbare community and we all know that. The state media continues to demonise opposition parties and nothing has been done.
Surely, these are issues in the public sphere and all there for the commissioner to see. I don’t believe she is dumb, I am confident that she will come up with a credible report without fear or favour. When she does that, come tomorrow, be prepared to accept it and not try to discredit her as was done to Tibaijuka. I believe the Commissioner will draw up a programme of action for government to follow-up and act on, because this Inclusive Government has failed on its mandate to address continued rights violations.