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UN Special Envoy Meets Mugabe, Tours Affected Area

United Nations special envoy Anna Tibaijuka met with President Robert Mugabe today to discuss the government’s controversial urban clean-up program now in its sixth week. A spokesman for Mrs. Tibaijuka, head of the Nairobi-based U.N. Habitat agency and visiting Harare on behalf of Secretary General Kofi Annan, said the meeting was “constructive.”

A spokesman for Mrs. Tibaijuka, Sharad Shankardass, said Mr. Mugabe told her the government’s intentions were benign in cracking down on informal markets and unauthorized housing. Mr. Shankardass gave Blessing Zulu of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe an account of the meeting and of Mrs. Tibaijuka’s first day in the streets of the Harare suburb of Mbare observing conditions at first hand.

Mr. Shankardass said Mrs. Tibaijuka is reserving her comments until she has a more complete picture. But one person working with the displaced in Mbare has already provided the envoy’s team with a scathing report on what has happened to the community. Father Oscar Wemter, a Jesuit priest, has been working with the homeless people in Mbare and shared his conclusions with Blessing Zulu.

In Mbare, Mrs. Tibaijuka covered some of the same ground gone over this week by Studio 7 reporter David Mutomba, who went there and to Highfields, another suburb, to find out what has happened to residents turned out of their homes.

Families recently made homeless face new challenges in adjusting to life on the street. Many lost their livelihoods, homes and most personal property, and some lost family members. Reporter Mutomba reports on how such people are coping with the material and psychological effects of their traumatic dispossession.