Zimbabwe's Demolition Drive

At least 22,000 street traders have been arrested, police said in government-owned newspapers, and tens of thousands of people have been left homeless. Though the full extent of the operation remains unknown, opposition leaders say as many as 1.5 million people in Harare alone may have lost their homes.

Destruction continues as an AIDS Clinic for Orphans is razed…

Children watch as a bulldozer razes another home in Zimbabwe.

The anger is mounting as the demolition of homes of businesses has continued in Zimbabwe. The police have now been ordered to shoot those that resist:

Armoured troop carriers yesterday patrolled several Harare suburbs as the army was summoned to help suppress swelling public anger against an ongoing government onslaught against informal traders and homeless people.

The police – who have led the evictions – were under orders to use live ammunition against civilians attempting to resist. It could not be established whether the army was also under instruction to shoot at civilians with live ammunition. According to the sources, Harare police commander Edmore Veterai, on Thursday told about 2 000 police officers at Morris police depot in the city that they should not fear shooting with live ammunition at people resisting eviction because the campaign against informal traders had the blessings of President Robert Mugabe.

Many of the homes and businesses had legal contracts on the property:

“About 200,000 people have been affected in the demolition drive – and many of them have papers to prove that they were legal occupants with lease agreements,” said Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) director Munyaradzi Bidi.

ZimRights, along with its partner organisation, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, filed the application in the Harare High Court on Tuesday and it is expected to be heard on Thursday.

The eviction campaign began two weeks ago in Harare and has officially been billed as an operation “to rid the capital of illegal structures, businesses and criminal activities”, but Bidi said it has now moved outside the capital and is affecting informal businesses in outlying rural areas…

…Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe Tenants and Lodgers Association has claimed that rentals in the city have shot up by almost 250 percent.

Sister Mary Walsh of the Dominican Order of the Catholic Church in Zimbabwe shares a heart breaking account (via Zimbabwean Pundit) of destruction of the shelters she helped establish and run in the Hatcliffe Extension. Here are some parts of her tragic story:

In 1992 many thousands of people were put into a holding camp at a place called Hatcliffe Extension. They were not allowed to build permanent structures because this was going to be temporary…

…We have worked with the people there for the past ten years, people of all religions and none, people of all political persuasions and none. Over the years through the generosity of you all we were able to sink eight boreholes, help to feed thousands of people, build and run a crèche for AIDS orphans (180) of them. We visited once a week and two of our nursing Sisters, Gaudiosa and Carina treated people, helped to get about 100 people on to an anti-retroviral medicine programmers, etc, do home based care, took people to hospitals, etc…

On Friday morning last week I got a call that the riot police had come into a section of the area and demolished everything – most of the wooden shacks are just broken to pieces. I went out on Friday and Saturday – people were sleeping out in the open, many of them sick, cold and hungry. On Saturday I visited again. Some had managed to leave (those who have Z$500 000 – and have some relatives in “legal” places”). On Sunday morning I got a call that the police had given instructions that all structures in the original section have to be demolished within 24 hours, including the crèche, clinic and other structures which we had built with and for the people…

How does one say that Peter aged 10 and his little brother (John) aged 4 (not their real names) are “illegal”. We had provided them with a wooden hut when their Mother was dying, she has died in the meantime, these two little people had their little home destroyed in the middle of the night, we get there, they are sitting crying in the rubbish (that was their home until Sunday) – what do we do with them?…

…Veronica (not her real name) is an elderly widow who is chronically ill herself, she has 3 young grandchildren from her dead daughter – her home is destroyed. She is wearing a Rosary Beads around her neck, an apron with the picture of the Sacred Heart and a tee shirt with President Mugabe’s photo – she has tried all means to survive! Some people came and said, “Sister there are two people who are dying please come.” One of them Mary (not her real name) who is out in the open all night lying on an old damp mattress can’t move with pain, she has shingles, which is open and bleeding, what is worse her tears or her bleeding wounds? I felt/feel paralyzed…

A Grandmother asks, “Sister why has God abandoned us? I do not try to answer. People call out “Sisters pray for us”. An emergency taxi (mini bus) stands in the middle of this “war zone” with the words “God is Faithful” written on it! Just now we are going back there with food, clothing, medicine and cash, we can only try. I am NOT cold, I am NOT hungry but I am very ANGRY. I pray that this will pass. We stand in shock and cry with the people but we also have to try to keep them alive. When will sanity prevail. Where is the outside world?

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