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Zimbabwe Police Raze Shack Dwellings Making Scores Homeless

In a pre-dawn raid this week, Zimbabwe Republic Police bashed down an informal settlement in Harare making scores of people, including children, homeless. Many of those whose shacks were destroyed by police were refugees from similar massive attacks on urban dwellings five years ago.

The shack dwellers whose temporary homes were broken down by police this week were living on a race course in Harare's upmarket Borrowdale suburb, north of the city center.

The raid also affected some employees from the race course.

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights condemned this week's raid. The group said about uniformed 30 policemen, accompanied by dogs, and some carrying guns, came from Harare Central Police Station.

Many of the temporary homes were set on fire by police and the homeless people were left in the open, in the cold of winter, and then taken to the police station.

Victims later told the rights lawyers that they were told to leave Harare and go and build homes in rural areas.

The rights lawyers say they managed to find 55 settlers at the police station, including five children. So far the total number of those whose shacks were destroyed is not known.

Police say they will charge the settlers whom were arrested during the raid.

Police report to the home affairs ministry, shared between President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party and the Movement for Democratic Change in the 18-month-old inclusive government.

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights said the police acted both unlawfully and unprocedurally as no notice had been given, or alternative accommodation found before the raid.

The lawyers say many of the victims became homeless when the then ZANU-PF government launched Operation Murambatsvina, or clear out the trash, and demolished tens of thousands of homes and small businesses in 2005.

That campaign captured the attention of the United Nations, which condemned the raids.

The UN estimated more than two million people had been affected in Operation Murambatsvina.

Election results from 2000 show that the Movement for Democratic Change has overwhelming support in urban areas.

In south astern Zimbabwe, in controversial diamond fields in the Marange area, many families are being forced by mining companies to leave their homes.

Earlier this month, the mining companies held their first internationally approved auction in Harare and the mines ministry said foreign buyers spent about $40 million.on rough stones from Marange.

About 4,000 poor people from the Marange area have been told by the mines ministry they will have to move.

The first to go have been relocated to shelter in old tobacco barns on a formerly white-owned farm seized several years ago by a state company, the Agricultural Rural Development Authority.

Those moved so far say they received some groceries and a small cash pay out, but they have no homes and there are no nearby schools or health facilities for their families.