Skip to comments.Zimbabwe Government Extends Crackdown [1.5 million homeless and 30,000 arrested in campiagn]
Posted on 06/21/2005 5:55:28 PM PDT by Wiz
HARARE, Zimbabwe - Police have begun destroying vegetable gardens planted by Zimbabwe's urban poor, extending a demolition campaign that initially targeted shacks and street vendor kiosks.
Senior assistant police commissioner Edmore Veterai said urban farming on vacant plots of land was causing "massive environmental damage," state radio reported Tuesday.
The crackdown at a time of food shortages in Zimbabwe is the latest escalation in the government's monthlong Operation Murambatsvina, or Drive Out Trash, which has seen police torch the shacks of poor city dwellers, arrest street vendors and demolish their kiosks.
President Robert Mugabe was quoted Tuesday as saying concern about the campaign was misplaced and agreeing to allow in a U.N. observer.
Mugabe defends the campaign as a cleanup drive. The political opposition, which has its base among the urban poor, says the campaign is meant to punish its supporters.
The United Nations estimates the campaign has left at least 1.5 million people homeless in the winter cold. Police say more than 30,000 have also been arrested, most of them street vendors the government accuses of sabotaging the failing economy by selling black market goods.
The destruction of city plots is a painful reminder of one of the most hated policies of the white government that ruled before independence in 1980 the random slashing of crops on roadsides and railroad embankments.
The current crackdown comes when this southern African country needs to import 1.2 million tons of food to avoid famine. Years of drought and the seizure of thousands of white-owned farms for redistribution to black Zimbabweans have slashed agricultural production.
Many poor families depend on their vegetable patches for food and a tiny income at a time of 144 percent inflation and 80 percent unemployment.
Many of the capital's 2 million residents till any vacant ground they can find for an annual production of 50,000 metric tons of corn over a fifth of their total food requirements according to Richard Winkfield, an expert on Zimbabwean farming.
The Rev. Oskar Wermter, former secretary to the Zimbabwe Roman Catholic Bishop's conference and a parish priest in one of the poorest downtown areas, called the crackdown against these plots "insane and evil."
"They are sleeping in the open air tiny children and people dying of AIDS and people you thought still had some decency are defending this crime against humanity," said Wermter.
The main opposition Movement for Democratic Change has accused the 81-year-old Mugabe of imitating Cambodia's former Pol Pot regime by driving pro-MDC urban voters back to rural areas for "re-education."
It alleges food access is being used as a weapon of political reprisal following March 31 parliamentary elections won by Mugabe's Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front.
Mugabe expressed surprise at the "misplaced hue and cry over Operation Murambatsvina" in a recent telephone conversation with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, presidential spokesman George Charamba told The Herald newspaper.
Mugabe agreed in the phone call to let Anna Tibaijuka, Tanzanian head of the United Nations Habitat agency, come as Annan's envoy to asses the impact of "Operation Murambatsvina," Charamba confirmed.
Zimbabwe news ping!
What would be the downside of a bounty hunter taking Mugabe out?
I think Father Wermter has it pretty much figured out.
This all makes me sick. Where is the media coverage? Where is the outrage? What the hell does the U.N. do anyway? (That was rhetorical, btw)
Finally some responsibility and good reasoning from an African leader -- taking action against environmental threats!
This is exactly what I thought a few months ago - If the U.N. can't act in a situation like this, then what is it good for?
Where is the outrage or even condemnation from other African countries? Their attitude seems to be that Africans can do no wrong. That political stance seems to take precedence over compassion for their neighbors.
The only "threats" in this communist dictator's "environment" are at-least-partially-nourished subjects. Mugabe is insane and paranoid, typical traits of genocidal totalitarian dictators.
I guess Msrs Mbeki, Chavez, Carter, & Aristide were too busy?
Population/ideology control, Mugabe style.
Is anyone else thinking that this guy is moving towards Pol Pot levels of delusion?
This isn't going to end well, for the people of Zim. It's already horribly ugly, but I see it getting much worse, before it gets better, at this rate.
And will we hear from Sir Geldof on this? Hello? Sir Bob? Hello...?
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.