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News Alert: Zimbabwe police arrested 22,000 people

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  • pbs@iafrica.com
    From: WWW.AfricanCrisis.Org [The figure has grown. I wonder what the final toll will be. It appears as if Mugabe is also trying to intimidate the urban blacks.
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 1, 2005
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      From: WWW.AfricanCrisis.Org
      [The figure has grown. I wonder what the final toll will be. It appears
      as if Mugabe is also trying to intimidate the urban blacks. Jan]

      Zimbabwe police have arrested more than 22,000 people as a fierce blitz
      on illegal stores and shantytowns gathers pace. It already has sent
      homeless people fleeing for the countryside, the state Herald newspaper
      said. "We have so far arrested a total of 22,735 people and recovered
      33.5 kg of gold from 47 illegal gold panners and 26,000 litres of fuel,"
      Assistant Police Commissioner Wayne Bvudzijena told the newspaper.
      Bvudzijena was not immediately reachable for comment. Zimbabwe's main
      opposition party, which draws the bulk of its support in urban areas, has
      called on people to mobilise against the crackdown, which has also been
      criticised by religious leaders. President Robert Mugabe's government
      says the campaign is meant to stamp out black market trading and other
      crime in slums around Harare and other cities. Police have used
      sledgehammers and bulldozers to demolish thousands of illegal shacks and
      torched others, leaving residents scrambling to secure their possessions
      before their homes and businesses are destroyed. Many of those displaced
      by the crackdown are seeking to return to their family homes in the
      countryside, although a desperate fuel shortage caused by Zimbabwe's
      deepening economic crisis has made transport difficult.

      Zimbabwe's economy has contracted by 30 per cent over the past five years
      and is reeling from shortages of foreign exchange, fuel and other key
      commodities amid sharp drops in international investment and tourism.
      Critics say the crisis has been caused in large part by Mugabe's
      controversial policy of seizing white-owned farms to give to landless
      blacks - a move they say all but destroyed the key commercial
      agricultural sector. Mugabe, 81 and in power since independence from
      Britain in 1980, lays the blame for the crisis on domestic and foreign
      opponents of his land reform program, who he says are bent on sabotaging
      the country. The crackdown marks the first major police campaign since
      Mugabe's ruing Zanu PF party won a big victory in March parliamentary
      elections, which the MDC and western governments said were rigged.
      Government officials, who insist Zanu PF won fairly, say the blitz is an
      effort to stamp out black market trading which has boomed over the last
      five years, particularly in poor urban areas. Bvudzijena said many of
      those made homeless in the crackdown were being taken to a farm outside
      Harare where they were being processed before being sent back to rural
      areas.

      The Herald said the crackdown had caused a huge jump in rents around
      Harare, with landlords in some affected townships more than doubling
      monthly charges as desperate people search for accommodation. "The
      exercise came as a relief to us because now we can charge whatever
      rentals we want, taking advantage of the high demand," the newspaper
      quoted one landlord in the township of Highfield as saying. The
      opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) this week denounced the
      crackdown as a sign of the "brutality and cruelty" of Mugabe's government
      and urged people to resist. But while there were isolated clashes between
      angry township residents and police last week, the drive has continued
      with little sign of full-scale fighting and many residents simply moving
      out before police arrive. The government denies any political motive for
      the crackdown and says it is being broadly welcomed by Zimbabweans who
      want to see order restored in cities.

      From News24 (SA), 1 June
      Source: WWW.ZwNews.Com
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