The United Nations country representative in Zimbabwe, Agosthino Zacharias, has opened talks with Harare to resolve an impasse over a prototype temporary home the U.N. built at a transit camp outside Harare for people displaced by slum clearances.
Housing Minister Ignatius Chombo has charged that the model home at Hopely Farm is “substandard” and demanded that it be demolished, while U.N. officials propose that it be modified to address Harare's objections - for instance that it has just one room.
U.N. sources said the fate of the model home could determine the course of relations with Harare going forward. The Zimbabwean government has obstructed U.N. efforts to provide emergency housing for the many thousands of people displaced by the government's May-July 1905 slum clearance campaign. President Robert Mugabe himself rejected a U.N. envoy's appeal to allow tents to be erected for shelter.
A senior official at U.N. headquarters in New York told VOA that a visit that Harare has sought by Secretary General Kofi Annan - put off by the U.N. chief pending progress on humanitarian issues - still hinges on expansion of aid including in housing. The official said Harare's responsiveness on housing is being closely watched.
Reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe turned to Zimbabwean human rights lawyer Otto Saki, who has worked extensively with the country's population of internally displaced people, for his thoughts on the Harare-U.N. standoff.