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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 June, 2005, 15:57 GMT 16:57 UK
Zimbabwe police demolish township
A woman sits by her demolished home in Harare
About 200,000 people have been made homeless, the UN says
Police in Zimbabwe have fought running battles with residents of one of the oldest townships of the second city, as they demolished illegal structures.

The BBC's Themba Nkosi says that Makhokhoba in Bulawayo was the centre of resistance to colonial rule.

One woman stripped naked in protest after police destroyed her shack.

A police spokesman said that more than 20,000 structures had been destroyed and 30,000 arrested in the three-week nationwide operation.


The opposition say "Operation Murambatsvina [Drive out rubbish]" is punishment for urban dwellers who mostly voted against the ruling Zanu-PF party in March elections.

I witnessed police in Mzilikazi removing belongings of those who had fled their dwellings as they were being demolished
Themba Nkosi

President Robert Mugabe said it is needed to "restore sanity" to Zimbabwe's towns and cities.

The crackdown, which the United Nations says has left some 200,000 people homeless, has been condemned by Zimbabwe's churches, teachers and doctors.

Zimbabwe's teachers' association said it had been a "catastrophe".

Even those whose homes escaped "seem so traumatized they cannot concentrate on their learning", it said.

In London, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said that Zimbabwe's charge d'affaires had been summoned in protest.

He said the many HIV-positive Zimbabweans had been especially badly hit by the evictions.

He also said that an extra 25 names had been added to the 95 people subject to a European Union travel ban and assets freeze.

Magic charms

But Zimbabwe's police superintendent Oliver Mandipaka said that the operation would continue "until we have weeded out all criminal elements countrywide," reports the state-owned Herald newspaper.

Our correspondent in Bulawayo says that even the well-respected traditional doctors in Makhokhoba township were not spared as riot police ordered the healers and their patients out of their shacks before setting them on fire.

Most of the traditional doctors lost their herbs and supposedly magic charms.

Makhokhoba has been a vibrant and colourful township for many decades, our correspondent says.

From the shacks of this township have come some of Bulawayo's top football players and theatre actors, such as Peter Ndlovu, the former Coventry City player now playing in South Africa.

The police then moved on to flatten houses in Mzilikazi township next door to Makhokhoba,

"It is a totally chaotic situation with people running in different directions," says Themba Nkosi.

"I witnessed police in Mzilikazi removing belongings of those who had fled their dwellings as they were being demolished. Many told me they are now homeless."

Bulawayo police spokesman Smile Dube said so far in Makhokhoba, police have discovered electrical goods worth thousands of dollars which they claim have been smuggled across the Botswana and South Africa borders.

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