|The ZIMBABWE Situation||Our
thoughts and prayers are with Zimbabwe |
- may peace, truth and justice prevail.
The announcement on state-run radio came as a dozen church leaders from neighboring South Africa met with some of the tens of thousands of Zimbabweans who have lost homes and livelihoods in Operation Murambatsvina -- Drive Out Trash, in the local Shona language.
The government defends the drive, launched on May 19, as an urban renewal campaign and says it will provide new homes to "deserving" Zimbabweans.
Opposition leaders say it is aimed at breaking up their strongholds among the urban poor and diverting attention from Zimbabwe's economic crisis. The demolitions and evictions come at a time when inflation has topped 144 percent, unemployment is around 70 percent and an estimated 4 million people need food aid.
So far, police have mostly targeted shantytowns, informal markets and other structures in impoverished urban and rural areas.
But police Inspector Loveless Rupere told state radio that officers also would go after unauthorized structures in Harare's wealthier, "low density" suburbs.
Michael Davies, chairman of the Combined Harare Residents Association, representing nearly 3 million people, said authorities were legally required to prove outbuildings were illegal and give 30 days notice of any planned demolitions.
"But you are basically in a war situation where the police don't respect due process," he said. "The police just ignore court orders. We have criminals in charge of the state, and criminals don't respect the law. If you order them off your property, you are asking for a truncheon across the head."
The demolitions, which have left many in the open at the height of the southern African winter, have caused international outrage.
The South African church delegation, which arrived late Sunday, toured Caledonia transit camp, where some 4,000 people are living in tents outside the capital after their homes were destroyed.
The Zimbabwe Council of Churches is host of the delegation, which includes Roman Catholic Cardinal Wilfrid Napier and Anglican Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane.
They hope to meet with President Robert Mugabe, opposition leaders and civil society representatives to help assess the humanitarian impact of the campaign. They are to return to South Africa on Tuesday.
Their visit follows a 12-day assessment mission by a United Nations envoy, who will be making recommendations to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.