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Zimbabwe slams Amnesty slum blitz report as "lies"

Written by: Staff
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HARARE, Sep 9 (Reuters) Zimbabwe today condemned as ''lies'' an Amnesty International report that criticised the Harare government for failing to rebuild houses for thousands left homeless after a controversial slum clearance.

President Robert Mugabe's government used police and bulldozers to clear slums and what it called illegal markets a year ago in an operation the United Nations says destroyed the homes or sources of income of about 700,000 people.

Amnesty said yesterday that a Zimbabwe government housing construction programme meant to benefit victims of the slum demolitions was a public relations exercise to mask ''mass human rights violations''.

Mugabe's government had only managed to build 3,325 houses -- some of them uninhabitable -- against nearly 100,000 homes required for the homeless victims, the rights group said.

''It's basically a mischievous report,'' Ignatius Chombo, minister for Public Works and Urban Development, said on state radio today.

''These are lies, lies being peddled by Amnesty. When they see one person sleeping at a bus stop they say they have no house,'' Chombo said, adding that Zimbabwe's national housing programme was one of the best in Africa.

He said the government would take criticism from people who have assessed the housing programme on the ground, but not from groups ''which ... interview discredited characters''.

Amnesty said the few houses built by the government were incomplete -- lacking doors, windows, floors, roofs and some with no water or sanitation facilities.

The rights group condemned the government for asking people to pay for incomplete homes or undeveloped housing plots, saying the slum demolitions had driven the poor deeper into poverty.

Mugabe's government, which is struggling with a severe economic crisis, says the slum demolitions were necessary to establish order in urban areas and to pave the way for decent housing for the poor.

REUTERS PDM VC1540

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