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Last Updated: Friday, 10 June, 2005, 09:20 GMT 10:20 UK
Zimbabwe ignores general strike
Boy watching house being demolished
Thousands of people are living rough after their homes were demolished
Most businesses are open as normal in the Zimbabwe capital, Harare, on the second day of a strike in protest at the demolition of illegal homes.

Correspondents say the strike was poorly organised and was difficult to publicise in a country where the state controls most media outlets.

On Thursday, President Robert Mugabe defended the crackdown, which the UN says has made 200,000 people homeless.

He said the three-week blitz was needed "to restore sanity" to cities.

As part of the strike, opposition MPs boycotted Mr Mugabe's speech as parliament was officially opened following after elections in March.

Rumour

Traffic in Harare is somewhat lighter than usual. There has been a heavy police presence in poor neighbourhoods during the strike, which was called by an alliance of opposition parties, trade unions and lobby groups.

HAVE YOUR SAY
It's high time someone knocked some sense into the leaders of Zimbabwe, both ruling and opposition
Nash, Harare, Zimbabwe

The main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change, announced its backing for the strike only one day before it was due to state.

Many Zimbabweans thought the strike was only a rumour, as it was not reported by state-controlled radio, TV or daily newspapers.

Some workers who still have formal jobs were either afraid of police retaliation or unwilling to lose two days' pay.

Police have warned they will deal "ruthlessly" with any street protests.

During the three-week crackdown against illegal homes and trading, bulldozers have razed shantytowns and markets in Harare and other cities, and armed police have made some residents knock down their own houses.

A Catholic priest told the BBC News website that many people were living rough, surrounded by a few possessions, despite the cold winter nights.

'New apartheid'

The government says the house demolitions are necessary to clean up Zimbabwe's urban areas, and that the crackdown on traders is targeting those involved in illegally trading foreign currency and scarce foodstuffs, such as sugar.

President Robert Mugabe outside parliament
Mr Mugabe said he was 'restoring sanity' to Zimbabwe's cities
"The current chaotic state of affairs where small- to medium-scale enterprises operated outside the regulatory framework and in undesignated and crime-ridden areas could not be countenanced much longer," Mr Mugabe said.

Some 30,000 people have been arrested.

Church groups and opposition parties, which are critical of the government action, combined to form the "Broad Alliance" and call the strike.

They say the crackdown is aimed at driving opposition supporters back to rural areas, where they have less influence.

The UN has demanded that Mr Mugabe stop the eviction operation, which it describes as a new form of "apartheid".

The UN Human Rights Commission estimates that up to 200,000 people may have been made homeless by the operation.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Scenes from Zimbabwe as houses are demolished



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