What do you think about the demolitions underway in Zimbabwe's second city? Have you been affected?
The crackdown known as "Operation Murambatsvina [Drive out rubbish]", which the United Nations says has left some 200,000 people homeless, has been condemned by Zimbabwe's churches, teachers and doctors.
Police have met some resistance from township residents in Bulawayo while demolishing what the government calls "illegal structures".
President Robert Mugabe said it is needed to "restore sanity" to Zimbabwe's towns and cities.
Have you witnessed the demolitions taking place in Zimbabwe? What do you think about these actions?
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This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:
Why is it that the world would be outraged if this sort of thing was done under the apartheid regime? I cannot understand how our neighbours think it is ok that blacks oppress other blacks. Zimbabweans need help, but nobody cares enough.
A. Mhlanga, UK (from Zimbabwe)
Robert Mugabe continues his insane acts of breaking down rather than building on the strengths of his country.(Unlike some other African Countries) I feel sure areas of demolition are influenced by tribal connections in Zimbabwe.
John Hodson, Westbank Canada
What do you think would happen if you tried to set up a vegetable stall in the middle on Times Square in New York, or Piccadilly Circus in London? What do you think would happen if you built unapproved structures in any city in any part of the world? The only reason people are up in arms is because this is being done in Zimbabwe. The double standards are disgusting.
Mwana Wevhu, USA
Shameful, Shameful, and my heart cries out - have mercy on the families that have been placed off of their land and displaced at the same time. Little children having no place to call home. Parents having no answer for their children. The president of the country has no heart to care and bear no responsibility for his shameful actions.
No matter how open-minded or objective I may be this devastation is immoral and senseless. For many years Mugabe has done as he pleases. It is blatantly obvious that this latest disregard for his own people has nothing to do with "restoring sanity'" but rather a means of revenge for to those who voted the other way. What makes me sick is that the rest of the world does nothing about it. Leaders of some of the most powerful states in the world stand by and give the impression that this is just the new way of life for Zimbabweans. If Zimbabwe was an oil rich country I know things would be different.
Why all this noise about the demolitions in Zimbabwe? Demolitions of illegal settlements take place all the time in African countries and no foreign media has ever commented. Due to the huge problem of rural/urban migration in developing countries the problem of illegal settlements mushrooming all over is very rampant. Drought, famine, war and the resultant poverty, as well as stories of the good life in the urban areas drive many rural people to towns/cities. Illegal structures springing up in empty lots and city suburbs are the worst nightmare for town planners. Unfortunately some people think that a vacant piece of land is an invitation to move in. Often these areas have long been included in the town and regional planner's projections.
In Botswana just four years ago the government did a similar clean-up exercise to the one in Zimbabwe. This involved bulldozers tearing down people's houses at an area called "Tsolamosese" just on the outskirts of the capital city. Of course people were unhappy and the odd politician tried to make capital out of it. The fact was that people knew it was illegal to put up houses in the area but went ahead anyway because they claimed it was taking for ever to acquire plots from the local authorities. Lets face it, it's all very well to criticise from a nice comfortable suburb in the first world but unless the problem of illegal structures is controlled, the towns and cities of Africa will all end up looking like shanty towns.
My family was also affected by this operation and I am greatly disappointed by the lack of concern on the hand of the government. At least they were supposed to take concern by at least informing people in time so that they could look for alternative accommodation elsewhere. I can only say this is clearly brutality at its greatest level. People were caught unaware and were not given time to act or a chance to react. My family was left exposed to the chilling winter night temperatures and my kids of ages 3 and 6 years could not understand when my wife failed to explain. She only managed to shed tears. Being for the opposition MDC doesn't mean that everyone including innocent children should suffer. My family has suffered because I am MDC which prompted me to flee Zimbabwe.
Nkomo GPM, France
At this moment there are fuel shortages, children who commute are waking up at odd hours just to go to school, made to stand in long queues after the sun has set because there is no transport to take them back home.
My grandmother and my two sisters and brother have now moved back to a one room place. We had built three rooms at the back to extend onto the one roomed house that my mother had been given long ago. It's very sad to learn that they are now back in a one room place which is now a kitchen, living room, bedroom (with grown-ups and kids) and I am in this country. I talked to my grandmother. She was very emotional. I really don't know. I wish I could bring my sisters here but I can't.
Ruth, Canterbury, UK
I honestly support the demolition of shacks in Zimbabwe. Lusaka should do the same. However, governments should first provide alternative land to the affected people before they begin demolishing. There will be no clean up in African cities if no drastic measures are taken, therefore demolitions are the only way.
Vincent Chowa, Lusaka, Zambia
The cottage my brother was renting in Bindura was destroyed and he is now staying with me while his wife and child are staying with her parents. I am in the danger of being evicted by the landlord for overcrowding since I already live with my family of two, sister and maid.
Taurai, Harare, Zimbabwe
I have talked to some Zimbabwean friends of mine and they tell me that the cities are now clean. Do you people have no mercy for the homeless? Nobody wants to live in a shack but you need a roof over your head. If that is all you can afford, it is better than nothing. Would it not have been better for the government to create employment and good economic policies to enable these people improve their living conditions?
Slums are in all developing cities. Even New York had shacks years ago but gradually with development, they were replaced with better structures as the city grew. This is no way to treat the poor. Once again we have apartheid in that part of the continent.
Bob Kabaziguruka, London, England
We were busking enjoying the winter sun when we heard trucks and bulldozers roll in. There was pandemonium as we rushed to salvage the little we could. In n -time the cottage I had called home for three years was gone. Then it dawned on me that I was now homeless, you try and pinch yourself and wake up but this was no dream. My life had been shattered before my very own eyes. The following morning at school almost everyone had similar experiences. Whilst restoring order is good I don't trust the intentions
My parents are terrified and scared. I saved six months of wages in order to send money to Zimbabwe for my parents to build a beautiful two bedroom rental cottage so they can get financial assistance from it. Ironically, my uncle who is renting the cottage is a police officer who will be out of a home after all this.
It is brand new and to see it come down is evil. No other word to describe it just evil. 200,000 people and counting homeless and the US, UK, Australia just extend and strengthen sanctions? Help us please! This has nothing to do with cleaning up rubbish. The rubbish being referred to here is all those that did not vote for Zanu-PF but instead voted for the MDC.
Anonymous, Victoria, BC, Canada
I was in Harare last week, for the first time I have seen my city clean. I managed to walk downtown Harare without being harassed by street kids or vendors. Prior to this cleanup talking on the cell phone in downtown Harare was unheard of. One had to look for a secluded place to make a phone call. Women had stopped wearing jewellery for fear of being victimised by criminals! Thanks to the government and police!
Munya, St Louis, USA (Zimbabwean)
There is no alternative for these people. Let the government first supply an alternative then clean up. The only reason it is like it is - Mugabe and his henchmen are economic idiots! Now the world wants to give us more money for our leaders to steal. This new money will not go where it is meant to go.
Joe Brown (Alias), Harare, Zimbabwe
I am a policeman in Bulawayo, and I tell you that these slums are filled with criminals and opponents of the elected government. Once again the western media makes up lies about the Mugabe government when it is a clean-up mission to make the city beautiful and prosperous for the law-abiding. Out of our business please!
Anonymous, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe
I agree with Zimbabwe government for the demolitions but let there be land for the victim.
Ibrahim Songa, Freetown ,Sierra Leone
At midday three pickup trucks arrived at the intersection of Corn Street and Owunje Road. About thirty men got out and divided into three or four teams. They worked down Corn Street, summoning residents from their homes. Once a group of three or four houses were emptied, the team leader would throw in a bottle of gasoline and a piece of burning cloth.
The teams then moved on to the next group of houses. Because they were concentrated over such a small area, there was no resistance. Those ahead of them desperately trying to empty their homes, those behind hopelessly trying to extinguish the flames. Corn Street has no public water supply.
After an hour, the men returned to their vehicles and rested, drinking beer. By mid afternoon they had lost interest, and drove away. About forty homes on Corn St were gutted, leaving at least 150 men, women and children without shelter. To my knowledge there was only one injury, a woman who tried to enter her burning home, and sustained severe burns on her legs. Neighbours took her to a local clinic.
Bungo, Entefe, Bulawayo
On 14 June the police made their way to Mabvuku, one of Zimbabwe's townships, they totally destroyed the small cottages that were housing a better half of that community's population. Many people were seen walking up and down the street in the middle of night.
No-one was spared, not even 80-year-old grannies. The government has gone mad, people say. If they won an overwhelming majority then why terrorise all these people? People are sleeping out in the open and worsening the food shortages.
University students at Midlands State University are now stranded because the cottages that they were staying in have been destroyed.
Poniwa, Gweru, Zimbabwe
To Poniwa, Gweru: You are not telling the truth. Midlands State University students are not stranded. Actually some have finished writing their exams and have gone home. Better still most if not all do not stay in shacks but in ordinary houses in Senga and Nehosho. The clean up exercise is good although it's ill-timed.
Jinda, Gweru, Zimbabwe
The international community and the UN in particular have failed to take action against human rights violations in Zimbabwe. Mugabe has clearly proved to be an enemy of the people. How can he evict people he yesterday encouraged to repossess their land? What is legal in Zimbabwe?
Thanks for the news. We really need it as our state controlled media does not cover some of these issues. People are really suffering in Zimbabwe's cities and towns and we really need Mugabe and his government to do something positive about it, even to resign before the situation is too horrible.
Norma, Kwekwe, Zimbabwe
Total carnage is the only feasible description of what I have witnessed over the past three to four weeks. Intimidation by and presence of military personnel are the only prevention of a mass demonstration in my opinion.
John (alias), Harare, Zimbabwe
The regime is merciless. Our brothers and sisters are suffering. I am also one of the victims. My landlord was ordered by the council to demolish the cottage that I have been staying in. I am now living with a cousin. The Zimbabweans have been made to suffer by this power-hungry man.
Brian, Harare, Zimbabwe
It is numbing the way these clean ups are taking place. Lifetime investments and the very livelihoods destroyed in the wink of an eye. There is no better way to describe it except blatant Satanism I think. There is a chill that goes down your spine the moment the trucks full of police and the bulldozers arrive. Machiavelli at his best... use maximum force to shock into despair!
We are calling the operation our tsunami because it is sudden and its after-effects devastating. The operation does not care whether you are for the ruling party or not. The war veterans are the hardest hit, as they were building illegal structures on unallocated land. The police came, saluted the Zimbabwean flag at one war veteran's home, then removed the flag and proceeded to demolish. It is a humanitarian crisis. On a positive note, the cities are now clean.
John C, Harare
I am the Director and founder of Amakhosi Theatre in Makhokhoba, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. For the past four days the theatre centre has been covered by black clouds of smoke as riot police order residents to burn down their survival stands, while ordering others to destroy their homes. Hundreds of artists are homeless as I write and their families have been affected by the operation.
I am producing a TV series Amakorokoza that runs on Zimbabwe TV1 every Tuesday and when we went to shoot at the homestead of the Nkala family were we have been shooting for the past two years all their four huts had been pulled down and thatching grass burnt. I counted a convoy of 12 heavily loaded police cars, armed for war, ordering every villager to knock down their huts.
Over 2,000 families have been staying here since 1984. We could not film but just stood there shocked by what was happening before our eyes. A crying Mrs Nkala pulled out documents to prove that Zanu-PF had been promising to resettle them for the past 12 yrs... and now this. Zanu-PF works in amazing ways!
When I came to the theatre this morning I met at the garden one of the actors whose house extension has been pulled down. I asked where he slept and he told me that he slept behind a sofa with his wife and 16 other relatives in one room. I asked him why he had come to the theatre today as the Zanu-PF government had just announced that they have made 250,000 stands [plots of land] available.
I asked him: "Why are you not somewhere registering to get a stand?" He said, "Ah I will not do that because they will come after us when we have put all our sweat in developing the stands and pull everything down accusing us for some wrong doing."
While the smoke fills the clouds everyone asks themselves what the objective of Zanu-PF is by doing this to its citizens. Why are they doing this? I have learnt one thing from this experience - great leaders can do great things.
Cont Mhlanga, Makhokhoba, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe
It's pathetic, traumatising, terrible and health threatening.
I finished my degree last year. I was working in Harare, living in an illegal shack. I am now heading for my rural home, Mhondoro. I have nowhere to stay, so I am forced to resign. 13 years of education wasted. How do you expect the nation to develop when the educated are driven out of the cities?
Captain Montrose, Harare, Zimbabwe
My two roomed home was destroyed yesterday. The police came while I was at work and instructed my wife to remove all belongings from the two cottages before razing them to the ground. When I and the two families lodging in the cottages came back from work at around 6pm, we found only the wreckage. This was despite a three months notice broadcast on ZTV by Minister Chombo, giving us three months to regularise these structures.
It is also puzzling me that even in police camps, there are many illegal structures such as tin houses, wooden cabins etc that are spared by the police. I really believe this operation is politically motivated as the police openly ask us to reconsider our positions. I am also wondering why they are not arresting all those who illegally sold council land to people first or made them refund the people they defrauded first before the destruction.
Is it to cover up? Or is it a ploy to send people in disarray so that they will not come back to claim their monies? Imagine people who each paid Z$10 million for the stand and incurred a further Z$100 million to build, being given 30 minutes to destroy and leave and told "go back where you came from".
Peter, Harare, Zimbabwe
This is a terribly chaotic situation. Many people have been left homeless and hopeless. The act was mistimed, in the middle of winter, and with no eviction notices for people to prepare alternatives. However, I believe in a just God who will act in His time against such a cruel regime. My message to Zimbabweans is to look up to God, who knows all our needs and will support and strengthen us in such trying times.
Anonymous, Chitungwiza, Zimbabwe
I witnessed the demolition of Tongogara camp, Mufakose and Mbare. The post demotion scene looks more like a war zone after air raids - there is rubble all over not to mention the many women and children left homeless. Some with nowhere to go. It's just pathetic that anyone with a God given conscience should protest.
If what is considered legal supersedes basic human rights to basic shelter in winter then one is left wondering the moral basis of our constitution and actions. Surely a more humane way of dealing with urban overpopulation could have been found.
Rangarirayi, Harare Zimbabwe
I am a Zimbabwean now trying to make a living in the UK. I returned to a few weeks ago to visit family. Unfortunately while I was there we drove through and witnessed the so-called clean up on Whitecliff Farm. Hundreds of riot and armed police, some just in civilian clothing, were burning, bulldozing and physically smashing anything and anyone that got in their way.
It is now winter in Zimbabwe and apparently a lot of these people have been rounded up and put into fenced areas, like concentration camps, with nothing but the clothes on their back. They have no shelter, nothing. They were starving already, and now are homeless and freezing.
Whatever they did own was loaded onto separate trucks and never seen again. I just wonder and would love to know what it is going to take for this madness to stop and for the people of Zimbabwe to just have a break.
Daniel, Dunfermline, Fife
When hundreds of thousands of people are made homeless by war the UN quickly steps in and it is made an issue for the Security Council. Yet here we have those same thousands being thrown out onto the streets in winter, being made needlessly homeless, children have been pulled out of school and some of the adult population have had to quit their jobs and not a word from the UN. A correspondent somewhere likened this to the madness of Pol Pot and yet the world stands by. What has the world learned then?
What use is it for us to tell you of eyewitness accounts, so that the world might be entertained, pass the day by with idle ruminations on our plight because we have seen that the world can't be moved? But the stories are moving. People traumatised beyond action who live out on the streets simply because they don't have the energy nor the will to pack up their belongings and go elsewhere out of the biting cold.
I saw a man who tried in vain to sell his wardrobe at a giveaway price so that he could buy firewood to keep his family warm and fed during the night. In the end he broke it up and used it as firewood. These are the stories but there is so much more to tell because you can't really tell it until you've spent the night out, homeless, without hope of finding another and felt the cold, desolation and despair. I am waiting for the room I am staying in to go down, maybe tomorrow or the day after. Then I'll write an eyewitness account. I hope it will do someone some good, pass the day off a touch easier.
Roger, Harare, Zimbabwe