Police in the Zimbabweean capital of Harare have been rounding up street children and vendors in an operation including beatings of those detained, sources said.
Unlicensed vendors have been slapped with fines of Z$40,000 US$0.15) while police have confiscated their goods, the sources said, noting that previous occasions when such crackdowns have been in progress goods were auctioned. But the lack of such auctions has lead observers to conclude that police are keeping the goods.
Sources with children's rights organisations said they have not been able to determine where police have taken the street children that have been rounded up.
Harare city authorities estimate that at least 12,000 people now live on the streets.
Former University of Zimbabwe lecturer Michael Bourdillion, who has studied street children, declared that "when there are children on the streets who do not have adequate food and shelter, government is clearly failing in its responsibility."
Analysts say deepening poverty is swelling the ranks of the thousands made homeless and jobless in 2005 by the government's campaign of forced evictions and home demolitions which it dubbed Operation Murambatsvina, or "Drive Out Trash."
Elfas Zadzagomo, chief executive officer of New Hope Foundation, a children’s rights group, told reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that he is concerned by what he has been witnessing on the streets of Harare.
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