Zimbabwe's vice president, Joyce Mujuru, said Thursday the government has completed its campaign of demolitions two months after they began. Mrs. Mujuru said the program, which has touched families throughout the land, was designed to fight squalor and poverty.
Vice President Mujuru's announcement that the government has stopped the demolitions came nearly a week after the United Nations condemned President Robert Mugabe's campaign. "Operation Restore Order," as it was called, or in its translation from the Shona language, "Clean out the Filth," resulted in the destruction of both legal and squatter homes, in urban areas. Additionally thousands of unlicensed street traders were imprisoned.
The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) said the campaign was designed to disperse many of its supporters from the party's urban strongholds.
Mrs. Mujuru told the state press that the government had "achieved what we intended," and called on the international community to cease its criticism and provide aid to house those left homeless.
The United Nations, in a report compiled by special envoy Anna Tibaijuka, called for a halt to the demolitions, saying it had left 700,000 homeless and disrupted the lives of a further 2.4 million people.
The demolitions continued this week at a sqatter settlement west of Harare and in Kwekwe, a town in middle of Zimbabwe, when a small office belonging to the MDC was knocked down.
Zimbabwe's state press continues to criticize Mrs. Tibaijuka, saying she was pressured by the West, in particular Britain, to write the report. U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan said he would only visit Zimbabwe when the demolitions ended and when there was some dialogue between the government and the opposition.
All camps set up to house those made homeless by the demolitions have been closed down. People sheltering in churches have also been taken away and an unknown number of them have been relocated to rural areas around the country.
Many people whose homes were knocked down told journalists and human rights monitors over the last few days that they were being forcibly removed from the cities and had no connection with rural areas.
The government says it is now committed to the next phase of the operation: providing homeless people with decent accommodation. About 400 homes are under construction in Harare and were shown to selected diplomats this week.
However, opposition parliamentarians in other urban areas of Zimbabwe said Thursday nothing is being built in their cities and that many people continue to sleep in the cold.
Some street traders have tried to resume their work, but they say they fear arrest and loss of their goods if caught by the police. Police can be seen daily inspecting areas where street traders used to operate before the crackdown.