by Richard Chidza | NewZimbabwe
THE government’s decision to embark on the demolition of illegal structures around the country which has been likened to the widely criticised 2005 Murambatsvina campaign, will hit HIV/AIDS patients hardest, rights activists have warned.
AIDS and Arts Foundation executive director, Emmanuel Gasa, urged the authorities stop the demolitions which were started in and around Harare last week.
“Tens of thousands were affected under Murambatsvina in 2005 but there was no follow up from authorities to find out what became of them, particularly on the issue of anti-retroviral therapy uptake. Most just defaulted and died,” he said.
Gasa told journalists in Harare that at least 11 per-cent of the estimated 700,000 people affected by the 2005 operation, which drew the attention of the United Nations, were on anti-retroviral therapy (ART).
“We lost a lot of people. About 6, 000 were on ART therapy at the time but of these only about 10 000 continued with their therapy after the displacements.
“These were unnecessary deaths and we are calling on authorities to deal with the victims of the 2005 clean-up campaign first before they embark on another destructive campaign.”
Just over half a million people are on ART therapy in the country with at least 1.5 million people living with the devastating condition.
He challenged President Robert Mugabe to honour his pledge to assist internally displaced people.
“It is inhuman for the government to just wake up and say they are destroying homes – however illegal the structures – without consideration to rights like health, shelter and such other social provisions. President Robert Mugabe signed the Khartoum Protocol in Uganda on internally displaced people,” the activist said.
Community integration advocacy group, Heal Zimbabwe, also condemned the new wave of demolitions.
“Any attempts to remove people without putting a clear mechanism in place to help those affected flies in the face of the residents’ rights to decent housing and shelter as espoused by the country’s Constitution, the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) and the UN Charter,” the organisation said in a statement Thursday.
The group added that the effects of the 2005 campaign were still being felt by communities – eight years after the government unleashed a combination of police and the military to tear down homes in Zimbabwe’s urban settlements.
“If the demolitions are to go on, thousands of households are going to be affected, and hundreds of thousands of people will be left stranded without anywhere to sleep, any food to eat and prone to a number of diseases and even death especially as we head towards the rainy season,” the group said.
“The Government should have learnt from operation Murambatsvina and put in place mitigatory measures before this indiscriminate operation.”
According to rights activists, the 2005 Operation Murambatsvina, which purportedly targeted illegal dwellings and structures, was carried out in an indiscriminate and unjustified manner, with no concern given to human suffering.
A report by UN habitat special envoy Anna Kajumulo Tibaijuka condemned the clean-up operation but the Tanzanian was in turn lambasted by the government for allegedly being political.