Anna Tibaijuka, who, as Kofi Annan's Special Envoy, wrote the UN report on the Zimbabwean government's Operation Murambatsvina co-authored an article in the Winter/Spring 2005 edition of the Brown Journal of International Affairs entitled 'Our Urban Future: Making a Home for Homo Urbanus'.
Governments are the watchdogs that can ensure that environmental standards are being met and ecosystems are not being dismantled, that local services are not arbitrarily withheld from the poor, that citizens have the opportunity to participate in decisions that affect them, that safety nets are in place in case of emergency, and that norms of integrity are upheld by local officials.
Politically, cities can represent opposition to a ruling class whose power base is planted firmly in the countryside. Even today, in many African countries, parliamentary representation is weighted disproportionately toward rural constituencies. The impact of this imbalance is compounded manifold in many countries where the politics of cities is controlled by the national governmnent. It is in the interests of party politics to paint cities as not being representative of national values. Cities are also tagged as environmental culprits, mainly because they concentrate human activity in a highly visible setting.
Good governance is seen as the sine qua non in policy development and implementation; while successful policies must further be based on democratic principles, equity, flexible fiscal mechanisms, civic engagement and decentralized, transparent and participatory governance.
The Executive Summary of the UN report (Download zimbabwe_rpt.pdf )sets out the Special Envoy’s findings and their implications as follows:
(i) Operation Restore Order, while purporting to target illegal dwellings and structures and to clamp down on alleged illicit activities, was carried out in an indiscriminate and unjustified manner, with indifference to human suffering, and, in repeated cases, with disregard to several provisions of national and international legal frameworks. Immediate measures need to be taken to bring those responsible to account, and for reparations to be made to those who have lost property and livelihoods. In parallel, other confidence-building measures need to be taken to restore dialogue between the Government of Zimbabwe and civil society.
(ii) Even if motivated by a desire to ensure a semblance of order in the chaotic manifestations of rapid urbanisation and rising poverty characteristic of African cities, nonetheless Operation Restore Order turned out to be a disastrous venture based on a set of colonial-era laws and policies that were used as a tool of segregation and social exclusion. There is an urgent need to suspend these outdated laws and to review them within the briefest time possible to ensure the sustainability of humanitarian response and to set the stage for meaningful physical reconstruction and the restoration of livelihoods;
(iii) The humanitarian consequences of Operation Restore Order are enormous. It will take several years before the people and society as a whole can recover. There is an immediate need for the Government of Zimbabwe to recognise the virtual state of emergency that has resulted, and to allow unhindered access by the international and humanitarian community to assist those that have been affected. Priority needs include shelter and non-food items, food and health support services.
(iv) Any humanitarian response can only be meaningful and sustainable if it contributes to the long-term recovery and reconstruction efforts of the Government and of its people. Zimbabwe is not a country at war and it remains peaceful. By African standards, it has a well maintained physical infrastructure. The international community should engage the Government of Zimbabwe and help it to address some of the issues and causal factors that led to the present predicament. These include, first and foremost, the lack of security of tenure for the poor. They also include conflicting and outdated housing and urban development policies, overlapping jurisdictions, and a lack of clear definition of and respect for the respective roles and competencies between central and local spheres of government. The humanitarian response provides a unique opportunity and entry point to link the provision of temporary shelter and other forms of humanitarian assistance with immediate security of tenure for all those affected and to prepare the ground for overcoming the failures and inherent weaknesses in governance.
The Zimbabwean government's reaction to the report is covered here.
The opposition MDC's reaction is here.
Thabo Mbeki's reaction is covered here.