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Displaced cleared from transit centre
BULAWAYO - Armed
soldiers and Zimbabwean police on Friday blocked the road to Hellensvale,
a transit camp north of the second city, Bulawayo, as authorities
ordered those displaced by the government's urban cleanup operation
out of their shelters.
The roadblock, half a kilometre from the camp, prevented IRIN's
correspondent from reaching Hellensvale. "I'm sorry, you cannot
proceed, just return to where you come from if you don't want trouble,"
IRIN was told.
Behind the security detail a thick cloud of dust and smoke could
be seen rising into the air while heavily laden trucks rumbled out
of the camp, reportedly to offload people in their rural home areas.
The government announced on Thursday that Hellensvale and Caledonia
Farm, a much larger transit centre outside the capital, Harare,
would be closed down. The people made homeless by the government's
widely condemned cleanup blitz would either be returned to their
now demolished townships, or transported to their rural home areas.
"We don't want our people to continue living in such camps, so that
is why we are closing them," Local Government and Housing Minister
Ignatius Chombo told the displaced at Caledonia Farm on Thursday.
"They should cease to exist, and on Saturday they should be history
- all those with rural areas will be taken there."
A large number of the 4,500 displaced at Caledonia Farm had come
from Hatcliffe, a settlement demolished by the police in June, even
though many of the residents had held valid lease agreements.
"Those with stands and have their allocation papers in order at
Hatcliffe should go back, and those with proof that they were employed.
But those that have never applied for a house are going to their
rural areas," Chombo affirmed.
In Bulawayo, where two major squatter camps were razed by the police,
officials said none of the 750 people cleared from Hellensvale would
be allowed back into the city.
Chombo told the homeless that arrangements had been made with chiefs
for those relocating to the rural areas to be allocated land for
resettlement, and some food would be made available upon arrival.
"Chiefs will welcome you with a bucket of maize for food, and you
will be given land to farm and set up your homesteads," he announced.
The rural areas have been hard hit by yet another drought, with
some 4.5 million people expected to be in need of food aid this
About 375,000 people were affected by the demolition programme that
began by targeting informal settlements and markets in May. Thousands
of children have dropped out of school and the humanitarian community
has also expressed grave concern for the plight of the vulnerable
- the elderly, sick, orhpans and people living with HIV/AIDS.
The government said Operation Murambatsvina ('Clean Out Garbage')
was "to rid the capital of illegal structures, businesses and criminal
activities", which also posed a health risk. Many people affected
chose to stay in their communities, some forced to sleep out in
the open, rather than go to the transit centres.
A report by the UN Secretary General's Special Envoy, Anna Tibaijuka,
who visited Zimbabwe for two weeks, is believed to be sharply critical
of the cleanup campaign.
Meanwhile, the government said its rebuilding programme, Operation
Garikayi/Hlalani Kuhle ('Stay Well'), aimed at constructing houses
for the urban poor affected by the demolitions, was underway.
In Bulawayo the authorities have begun clearing land and allocating
some stands, although it was unclear what selection criteria were
being used to clear the massive backlog on the city's waiting list
Sceptics have questioned the government's capacity to finance the
US $300 million project.
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