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PUBLIC AI Index: AFR 46/011/2005
Fear for safety/ Excessive use of force
Thousands of informal street traders and residents of informal settlements
Amnesty International is seriously concerned for the safety of thousands of informal street traders and residents of informal settlements across Zimbabwe who are being targeted for forcible eviction in a government operation called "Operation Murambatsvina" (meaning drive out the rubbish, and referred to by the police as 'restore order').
"Operation Murambatsvina" reportedly aims to "clean up" urban areas and tackle illegal trade in foreign exchange. The evictions are being carried out without notice and without court orders. During the evictions, police and other members of the security forces are using excessive force, burning homes, destroying property and beating individuals. In at least one instance police reportedly forced people to destroy their own homes. Amnesty International believes that many more people are in danger of injury as the operation continues.
Since 18 May 2005, many thousands of people have been forcibly removed from informal market areas in Harare by the police. Similar police actions have taken place in across the country in Bulawayo, Mutare, Chitungwiza, Rusape, Murehwa, Gweru, Masvingo and Kadoma. Although the government has claimed that the traders are unlicensed, lawyers have said that many of those arrested last week had licences. The traders have been given no notice and their goods have been destroyed or confiscated. Many traders are alleged to have been beaten during the operation.
Public anger at the destruction of property and livelihoods has resulted in traders and residents of affected areas attacking police. In response, armed police and the armed forces have been sent into some areas to quell unrest, raising further concerns for the safety of the affected communities.
On the night of 26 May 2005, more than 10,000 people were forcibly driven from their homes in the informal settlement of Hatcliffe Extension in northern Harare. Police reportedly destroyed homes - leaving the settlement's families destitute and sleeping in the open. The government has reportedly threatened more evictions from squatter camps around Harare.
In September 2004, Amnesty International reported on the attempted forced eviction of thousands of people from Porta Farm, an informal settlement on the outskirts of Harare, during which police reportedly misused tear gas against residents. The police were acting in defiance of a court order prohibiting the eviction. According to eye-witness testimony the police fired tear gas directly into the homes of the Porta Farm residents. At least 11 people died in the following weeks, after what eyewitnesses claim was exposure to the tear gas. Amnesty International has repeatedly called for a full investigation into the events which took place at Porta Farm and the subsequent deaths, but no investigation is known to have taken place. (See Amnesty International press releases: Zimbabwe: Ten dead following police misuse of tear gas, AFR 46/027/2004, 22 September 2004 and Zimbabwe: Another death at Porta Farm - 11 people now dead following police misuse of tear gas, AFR 46/028/2004, 1 October 2004)
Amnesty International is very concerned that Porta Farm may again be targeted in the current "clean-up" operation. The residents of Porta Farm have lived there for more than 10 years, and have invested in the development of the area.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send appeals to arrive as quickly as possible in English or your own language:
- expressing concern for the safety of people being forcibly evicted from informal settlements such as Hatcliffe Extension in northern Harare, informal market areas and street stalls, and at the use of force by police and security officers;
- calling on the authorities to investigate the reported use of excessive force by members of the security forces and for this practice to be ended;
- calling for an immediate end to all forced evictions;
- calling for those forcibly evicted from their homes to be given immediate access to shelter, food, clean water and sanitation facilities, and for full compensation and reparation to be made for the loss of homes and property;
- expressing concern that Porta Farm, where at least 11 people died following police misuse of teargas in September 2004, may again be targeted;
- urging the authorities not to attempt to forcibly evict the residents of Porta Farm or any other informal settlement;
- reminding the authorities that evictions must be carried out in full compliance with international human rights law, including with due process, legal protection, redress and appropriate relocation measures.
APPEALS TO (Time difference = GMT + 2 hrs / BST + 1 hrs):
The Hon Robert G Mugabe
Office of the President
Private Bag 7700
Fax: 00 263 4 734 644
[Salutation: Your Excellency ]
Minister for Home Affairs
The Hon Kembo Mohadi
Ministry of Home Affairs
Private Bag 505D
Fax: 00 263 4 726 716
[Salutation: Dear Minister]
Minister for Local Government, Public Works and National Housing
The Hon Ignatius Chombo
Ministry of Local Government, Public Works
and National Housing
PO Box CY441
Fax: 00 263 4 708 848 (If someone answers, ask for the fax)
[Salutation: Dear Minister]
PLEASE SEND COPIES OF YOUR APPEALS TO. His Excellency Mr Simbarashe Simbanenduku Mumbengegwi, Embassy of the Republic of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe House, 429 Strand, London WC2R 0JR. Fax: 020 7379 1167 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Operation Drive Out
Trash : A Bulawayo Pastor's view
Sokwanele : 4 June 2005
A Bulawayo pastor visited the scene of desolation on 5th Avenue following the trail of destruction left by Mugabe's stormtroopers.
All is quiet on 5th Avenue, but all is not well. The scene is of utter chaos. The stalls have been trashed, the produce destroyed. Rats are running all over the place. Wooden tables lean drunkenly on three legs, torn plastic covers are draped over twisted metal frames. It is a scene of desolation and a scene of despair. Everything is broken. A few shattered and squashed vegetables are lying on the ground. An occasional cyclist and Scania (handcart) move slowly down the street making their way round the scattered pathetic debris.
The police came on Wednesday morning under direct orders from the highest office in the government and in just a brief time brought crashing down the stalls, the hopes and the livelihood of hundreds of innocent people unable to defend themselves. People trying to earn an honest living have been left destitute by a cruel, unjust and vicious government.
These people were doing nothing illegal. They have licences to carry on their business. They have paid for those licences. They each have a licence number and a stall number. They pay rent for the sites along 5th Avenue.
On Wednesday, I stopped to speak to two of the stallholders. They were too frightened to give me their names. They were just sitting there. And yet when we spoke they were able to manage a smile. They have current licences and they have paid for their site. I asked them what they would do now. Their answer was brief and heart rending: "We will starve and our children will starve."
I did not know these two, but over the years have come to know several of these hardworking, cheerful and patient people. Their stalls were open for long hours as they waited patiently for customers. They were up early in the morning to buy good quality produce. Some of them must have risen before 4 am to get from their homes in the western suburbs. Now they will be unable to pay their rent and face eviction from their homes. No jobs are available. Their children will have to leave school, unable to raise school fees.
Anger and sympathy welled up in me in equal proportions. There is little doubt in my mind that there will be some divine judgment meted out in due course. God is neither deaf nor blind and he hears the cries of the oppressed. I pray that those who ordered this wickedness and those who carried it out will be hounded by their consciences until their dying day. If they have no conscience, then I pity them exceedingly. People with no compassion or mercy will receive none.
Wicked! Wicked! Wicked!
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