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UN Envoy Heads East as Zimbabwe Clean-Up Operation Continues

Anna Tibaijuka (l) talks to Getrude Murande (r) who had her home destroyed at Porta Farm

The United Nations special envoy headed east on her continuing mission to assess the impact of the Zimbabwean government's blitz against illegal settlements.

Anna Tabaijuka left Harare for the eastern border city of Mutare Friday morning. A United Nations spokesperson told VOA on condition of anonymity that Ms. Tabaijuka will make stops at smaller centers on her way to Mutare to check on the victims of the operation there.

Before leaving for Mutare, Mrs. Tabaijuka visited Caledonia Farm, a transit camp for those left homeless from the crackdown. A reporter who visited the camp once before accompanied Ms. Tabaijuka and says conditions at the camp are getting worse as the numbers of people in the camp increase.

Ms. Tibaijuka's trip east comes against a backdrop of reports of the ongoing crackdown having claimed four lives at Porta Farm, an informal settlement near Harare. Police bulldozed the settlement Tuesday in defiance of court orders prohibiting them from doing so saying they were acting on orders from an authority higher than the courts.

Of the four alleged deaths only one was confirmed by a spokesperson for Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights. Rangu Nyamurindira said one woman who was said to be terminally ill died, probably from exposure, after spending Wednesday night outdoors.

The three that could not be independently confirmed are those of a pregnant woman who is alleged to have fallen from a truck she was being forced onto by the police, a five-year-old said to have been run over by a police truck and a two-year-old who was crushed by a falling wall as a house was being demolished.

The woman's death is the seventh confirmed during the so-called "Operation Restore Order." A report in the latest edition of the independent weekly newspaper The Standard says six people had died as of last weekend.

Mrs. Tibaijuka visited Porta Farm late Thursday and a UN staffer on her team also only confirmed the one death. She described the conditions at the settlement where some estimates put the number of occupants at as high as 10,000 as "depressing."

Also on Thursday, Mrs. Tabaijuka met with representatives of non-governmental and civic organizations and people whose homes and livelihoods have been wrecked. Combined Harare Residents Association spokesperson Mike Davies described the meeting from which the media was barred as moving as the victims of the crackdown presented their testimonies.

An African Union statement said its representative was scheduled to arrive in Zimbabwe Thursday to carry out a fact-finding mission. The representative, Bahame Tom Nyanduga, Special Rapporteur of the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights responsible for Refugees, Asylum Seekers and Internally Displaced Persons in Africa, is scheduled to be in Zimbabwe until July 4. VOA was however unable to confirm his arrival in the country.

The government says it is carrying out the crackdown to clean up urban areas and to root out illegal traders whom it accuses of hoarding basic necessities which are in short supply for sale on the black market and illegal dealers in foreign currency. The United Nations estimates the exercise has made some 200,000 people homeless and has appealed to the government of Zimbabwe to stop destroying peoples homes and livelihoods.