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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 June, 2005, 15:05 GMT 16:05 UK
Thousands held in Zimbabwe blitz
Man watches police demolish his house
Thousands have been left homeless
More than 22,000 people have been arrested in the recent crackdown on Zimbabwe's shantytowns, a police spokesman has told state media.

He said some of those made homeless when their shacks were demolished in the capital, Harare, were being sent back to their rural homes.

Residents and riot police clashed overnight in the second city, Bulawayo.

Meanwhile, the head of the World Food Programme has discussed Zimbabwe's food needs with President Robert Mugabe.

'Choking'

Millions of people are suffering from food shortages and Mr Mugabe told James Morris he would "welcome" food aid, Mr Morris said.

Minibus queue in Harare
Fuel shortages make it difficult for people to leave the cities

Last year, Mr Mugabe asked the WFP to scale down its operations, saying Zimbabweans had so much food, "they were choking".

Mr Mugabe's critics say the shortages have been caused by his seizure of white-owned land.

He denies this, blaming the weather and a Western plot to remove him from power.

Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai said that the crackdown had created overnight, "a massive internal refugee population in its urban areas."

"Property worth millions of dollars has gone up in flames. Families are out in the open - without jobs, without income, without shelter without support," said the leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, which gets most of its support from urban areas.

The government says it is trying to reduce crime and clean up the Zimbabwe's cities.

Market vendors and local residents fought with police for more than two hours in Bulawayo's Makholkhoba suburb on Tuesday night, after their stalls had been demolished. Scores of people were injured.

War on poverty

The crackdown on illegal settlements in Harare and other cities has led to a huge increase in rents of up to 300%, reports the state-run Herald newspaper.

Market stalls have been set on fire and shacks knocked down with sledgehammers.

"We have so far arrested a total of 22,735 people and recovered 33.5kg of gold from 47 illegal gold panners and 26,000 litres of fuel," said Assistant Commissioner Wayne Bvudzijena.

Hundreds of thousands of people are reported to be homeless following a police operation in several cities that began last week.

But fuel shortages are making it difficult for people to travel to rural areas and escape the crackdown.

The National Pastors' Conference called on the government to "engage in a war against poverty and not against the poor".

Use the form to send us your comments on this story.

Street vendors can be seen in most African cities. Some see them as an eyesore who contribute to petty crime. Others say they are working hard to survive in difficult conditions.

What do you think?

A selection of your comments will be broadcast on the BBC's Focus on Africa programme on Saturday 4 June, starting at 1705 GMT.


the problem in zimbabwe today is that whatever the government does is wrong. its either too late, too little, too vicious, ill-timed, wrongly implemented. the list is endless. on this i'm afraid government is dead right.

any propery-owner welcomes this operation. shacks are a known source of criminal activities and whoever removes them is well supported.as a property owner i also expect that no one plays politics on an issue that promotes good hygiene, law and order, and protects the interests of established businesses.and read me correctly, there will be no uprising either.
albert, leeds, uk

THESE POOR PEOPLE DOING STREET VENDING ARE AS A RESULT OF POOR ECONOMIC POLICIES OF AFRICAN COUNTRIES. IF WE HAD MAINTAINED OUR LOCAL INDUSTRIES, THESE PEOPLE COULD PERHAPS BE BUSY DOING SOME OTHER JOBS, RATHER THAN US PROMOTING INDUSTRIES IN THE WESTERN WORLD.THEY ARE OUT THERE TO EARN A LIVING!!!!!!!!! THAT IS THE BOTTOM LINE.
LUYEYE MUMBA, LUSAKA ,ZAMBIA

If Mr. Mugabe's goal was to flood the countryside with refugees, I congratulate him on his success. Zimbabwe is a land rich in both natural and human resources, with fertile soil and the highest literacy rate in Africa. Unfortunately, in a few short decades Mr. Mugabe has managed to turn what might have been one of the greatest African success stories into a living nightmare. Even more pathetic, South Africa stands idle next door, pretending that żUncle Bobż can do no real wrong. The people of Zimbabwe deserve better from their neighbors, the world, and their leaders.


Andrew Mark Thompson, Union, United States of America

What an idea! but all Zimbabwean ideas are implemented at the wrong time and they lack proper planning to deal with aftermath.Look at the disaster that has been created with millions left destitutes,homeless and jobless with virtually nowhere to go.This has also created a ripple effect with people renting proper houses being affected as well because of a massive housing shortage that has been created and with a rising demand the rental prices are increasing five fold,increased demand for other basic commodities and less traders considering that some traders were getting the goods outside the country.

Inflation will once again choke the country exercebating the real economic problems.This will again expose misgovernance in the country and possibly increasing violent crimes because people have to find a means to survive.There is no doubt the cities will be clean as much as anybody would want,and Mugabe has become synonymous with being the first in Africa of implementing most controversial policies .

For the sake of brotherhood and sovereignity regional countries will be watching while those displaced people crossover to their countries and the international community overlooking while a catastrophy unfolds.Only time will tell.
Ronald Mutasa Musoni, Cambridge,Canada

what choice would those living in abject poverty have but to sell or barter in the streets.

a delegation from our church just recently returned from malawi commented upon just such a need, quoting a local trying to sell six tomatoes to earn something for his family. six surplus tomatoes the respresentation of one individulas accumulated wealth.
alan bush, aberdeen scotland

Street vendors in Zimbabwe are being shut down as they pose a risk of undercutting the Chinese imports now flooding Zimbabwe. Street vendors have a tough enough time as it is, scratching out a living on the roadside without being persecuted for some political folly.

This "purging" seems quite Stalin-esque, but as always, Mugabe is using it as another smokescreen to further his own agenda.
Michael, Harare,Zimbabwe

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