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UN Special Envoy Sets to Work Without Meeting Mugabe

Having declared late last week that he welcomed the arrival of a United Nations special envoy in Harare, President Robert Mugabe this week seemed to some to be dragging his feet on holding a first meeting with her.

The president was to meet on Monday with U.N. Habitat Director Anna Kajumulo Tibaijuka, a Tanzanian based in Nairobi, Kenya, but on Tuesday the meeting was pushed off again and said to be a sure thing for Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Tibaijuka and her eight-person technical team were not standing on ceremony. A spokesperson for the U.N. Development Program said she and the team had “started the process of collecting information about the population affected by the demolitions.” UNDP spokesperson Catherine Anderson said the team is working with the U.N. country team, local stakeholders and civil society to compile as comprehensive a picture as possible of the impact of Operation Murambatsvina, the government’s weeks-long home demolition spree.

Ms. Anderson said plans were under way for field visits to allow Mrs. Tibaijuka's team to visit demolished neighborhoods and assess "the capacity of the government and relief organizations to respond (to the crisis).”

But the presence in Harare of the envoy and her aides failed to bring a halt to the home demolition program. On Tuesday police razed homes belonging to settlers at Porta Farm, outside Harare, despite a high court order against the demolitions.

Reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA’s Studio 7 spoke with parliamentary liaison officer Herman Honekom of the Africa Institute in Cape Town, South Africa, who said President Mugabe’s elusiveness should come as no surprise.