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Last Updated: Friday, 3 June, 2005, 17:43 GMT 18:43 UK
Zimbabwe crackdown 'nearing end'
Police stand near demolished house
Some have been able to salvage a few possessions
Zimbabwe's police say their operation against street traders and illegal housing has entered its final day.

More than 22,000 people have been arrested and tens of thousands left homeless in the two-week crackdown.

The government says the move is needed to clean up Zimbabwe's cities but some feel it is punishment for areas which voted for the opposition.

The UN has demanded President Robert Mugabe stop the evictions, which it describes as a new form of "apartheid".

Miloon Kothari, a UN expert on the right to adequate housing, said the clearances sought to banish the poor from the capital, Harare, turning it into a preserve of the wealthy classes.

He warned that two to three million people - roughly a quarter of Zimbabwe's population - could be affected if the eviction drive continued.

"Where do they go back to?" he said. "There is no resettlement being offered, no compensation being offered for the properties that have been destroyed."

Lobby group Amnesty International has called for an end to the demolitions, which some are calling a "tsunami".


Whole shantytowns and markets have been razed to the ground, while the police are now targeting houses illegally built on farms around Harare, some of which were seized under the government's controversial land reform programme.

Our children are not going to school, we are sleeping outside everywhere... if you walk, everywhere you see people sleeping in the road
Victoria Machine

"Amnesty International is appalled by this flagrant disregard for human rights," said the group's Africa Programme, director Kolawole Olaniyan

"Forced evictions without due process, legal protection, redress and appropriate relocation measures, are completely contrary to international human rights law."

"Everything was destroyed without notice," Ernest Rautavaara told the Reuters news agency, standing in front of a half-demolished concrete building which was once a vegetable market.

Harare resident Sabina Takawira said the demolitions would damage the standing of the ruling party, Zanu-PF.

"I will never support Zanu-PF ever again," she told Reuters.

Amnesty said it had received reports that people had been forced to pull down their own homes but police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena said this was a sign that people were co-operating with "Operation Restore Order".

The police say the operation is targeted at criminals and black-marketeers who are subverting the economy.

No food aid

Reuters reports that open spaces in the poor Mbare district near Harare city centre have been turned into giant warehouses for goods salvaged from the police "tsunami".

People are sleeping in the open, even though Zimbabwe's winter has begun.

A stall burns after being set on fire by the police in the Harare suburb of Glen View
This market was set on fire by police
"We are suffering, we have nowhere to go. Our houses were destroyed," said Victoria Muchenje.

"Our children are not going to school, we are sleeping outside everywhere... if you walk, everywhere you see people sleeping in the road."

Meanwhile, Social Welfare Minister Nicholas Goche has denied that Zimbabwe needs food aid.

He told state radio that the government had bought 1.2m tonnes of corn from South Africa to cover poor harvests.

Earlier this week, World Food Programme chief James Morris said Zimbabwe faced "an enormous humanitarian crisis", with between 3 and 4 million people needing food aid in the next year.

Mr Goche, however, said that Zimbabwe would welcome any food it was offered.

Zimbabwe has been accused of manipulating food aid for political reasons - downplaying shortages ahead of elections and depriving opposition areas of food.

The government denies that its seizure of white-owned farms has led to the food shortages.

It blames poor rains and a Western plot to remove President Mugabe from power.

See the devastation caused by the 'clearance' in Zimbabwe

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