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Zimbabwe Doctors Slam Clean-up Operation


The Zimbabwe government's crackdown on vendors and illegal residential structures continues. The exercise is drawing fire from various quarters at home and abroad. Latest to voice their concern is the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights.

A statement from the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights says its members deplore in the strongest possible terms the ongoing destruction of informal housing and businesses in Zimbabwe's urban centers.

The 300 member association accuses the government of worsening the humanitarian crisis in a country facing severe food shortages and high unemployment.

The statement says that the exercise is victimizing the poorest members of the community, which it describes as law-abiding citizens simply trying to survive. The doctors also expressed particular concern on the impact of the campaign on children and families affected by HIV and AIDS.

They noted that in one area homes of six child-headed households and 40 grandparent-headed households were demolished. Zimbabwe, with one in four adults HIV positive, has one of the highest infection rates in the world.

It also notes that the exercise targeted settlements and informal businesses that have been in existence for more than 10 years and were established with government approval and support.

The statement says the crackdown is in violation of various international conventions to which Zimbabwe is a signatory.

Miloon Kothari, of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights has appealed to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Zimbabwe to immediately halt the mass forced evictions.

The government says the crackdown, which it calls Operation Restore Order, is aimed at ridding urban areas of illegal shelters, rooting out hoarding and illegal trade in goods that are in short supply, and clamping down on illegal foreign-currency dealing.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change, which disputes the result of the March 31 parliamentary elections alleging violence, fraud and rigging, says the operation is aimed at punishing its urban support base.