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Zimbabwe police target wealthier suburbs
Michael Hartnack, Seven
July 12, 2005

Zimbabwean police have extended their demolition campaign to Harare's wealthier suburbs, going after unauthorised garages, cottages - even chicken coops.

The announcement on state-run radio came as a dozen church leaders from neighbouring South Africa met with some of the tens of thousands of Zimbabweans who have lost homes and livelihoods in the hated Operation Murambatsvina - which means Drive Out Trash, in the local Shona language.

The government defends the drive launched May 19 as an urban renewal campaign and says it will be providing new homes to "deserving" Zimbabweans.

Opposition leaders say it is aimed at breaking up their strongholds among the urban poor and diverting attention from Zimbabwe's economic crisis.

The demolitions and evictions come at a time when inflation has topped 144 per cent, unemployment is around 70 per cent and an estimated four million people need food aid.

So far, police have mostly targeted shantytowns, informal markets and other structures in impoverished urban and rural areas.

But police Inspector Loveless Rupere told state radio officers would also go after unauthorised structures in Harare's wealthier "low density" suburbs.

Michael Davies, chairman of the Combined Harare Residents' Association representing nearly three million people, said authorities were required under Zimbabwe law to prove outbuildings were illegal and provide 30 days notice of any demolitions.

"But you are basically in a war situation where the police don't respect due process," he said.
"The police just ignore court orders. We have criminals in charge of the state, and criminals don't respect the law. If you order them off your property, you are asking for a truncheon across the head."

The demolitions, which have left many in the open at the height of the southern African winter, have caused international outrage.

The South African church delegation toured Caledonia transit camp, where some 4,000 people are living in tents outside the capital after their homes were destroyed.

The Zimbabwe Council of Churches is hosting the delegation, which includes Roman Catholic Cardinal Wilfrid Napier and Anglican Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane.

They hope to meet with President Robert Mugabe, opposition leaders and civil society representatives to help assess the humanitarian impact of the campaign.

Their visit follows a 12-day assessment mission by a United Nations envoy, who will be making recommendations to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

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