Thursday, July 19, 2007

Zimbabwe - Mugabe - corruption and cement

Scarce building materials, earmarked to rehouse victims of Zimbabwe's Operation Murambatsvina, have been diverted to other projects, including work on a mansion for President Robert Mugabe . Operation Murambatsvina, supposedly aimed at clearing slums and flushing out criminals, left more than 700,000 people homeless or without a livelihood.

A visit by an IRIN correspondent to Hopley Farm, a government camp 25km southeast of Harare, for internally displaced people who lost their homes found all construction activities had ground to a halt. Local government officials responsible for the construction of housing for 1,000 families told IRIN the programme had been stopped after cement and money for workers' salaries had run out.

The officials showed IRIN a letter written to Ignatius Chombo, the minister of local government, which read, "Please take note of the 11,150 bags [of cement], said to have gone to President Robert Mugabe's residence in Borrowdale..the cement was said to have been returned, when in actual fact it was not. The cement was used in Borrowdale towards the construction of the president's house." Mugabe is renovating the Borrowdale Brooke home of the world's former number one ranked golfer, Nick Price; some sections of the property, such as the security wall and workers' accommodation, are still being built.
Cement destined for housing at Hopley Farm was also being used in other projects, such as the construction of the Manyuchi Dam in Masvingo Province, in the southeast, repairs to Harare's maximum-security Chikurubi prison, and also for renovations to some district hospitals.

None of the houses built so far include lavatories or potable water, and prospective tenants have been told that the costs of installing these facilities would have to be borne by them. In Bulawayo, Zimbabwe's second city, municipal authorities have evicted the beneficiaries of Operation Garikai housing, on the basis that the dwellings could only be deemed habiltable if the government provided water and sanitation.

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