The forced resettlement of families and individuals continued Monday in Zimbabwe in the face of a United Nations report which condemned the Harare government’s drive since May to level unauthorized structures and push their former inhabitants into the countryside, said church humanitarian officials and lawyers for the displaced.
A VOA correspondent observed police in force at Porta Farm, a settlement about 20 kilometers from Harare, amidst the ongoing removal of residents from the community, which took root 15 years ago following an earlier resettlement drive.
Families still at the farm told reporter David Mutomba of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that they were being harassed and robbed of their food by security forces.
Human rights attorney Otto Saki of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights said that authorities destroyed shacks built at Porta Farm by people who had gone back there from the Caledonia Farm transit camp, also in the Harare region. He said authorities were removing Porta Farm residents to undetermined locations despite an appeal lodged in the Supreme Court by lawyers, this following a High Court ruling which dismissed an urgent application for relief from those conducting evictions.
Reporter Jonga Kandemiiri of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe interviewed Otto Saki.
Meanwhile, aid organisations said they were seeking to locate families and individuals removed from Caledonia Farm and from Helensvale Farm, another transit camp to the north of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second-largest city. The government had been forcibly removing people from both of the resettlement camps since late last week.
The head of the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace, Alois Chaumba, said some church relief workers tried to follow government trucks to see where people were being taken. But they were unable to follow them to their ultimate destinations due to the poor condition of roads and a general shortage of fuel.
Reverend Nicholas Mkaronda of the National Pastors Conference said church leaders in Harare, Bulawayo and Norton were assessing the conditions under which residents of Porta Farm and Hatcliffe Extension, a Harare suburb hit hard by demolitions, were living. Their intention was to provide assistance wherever possible.
The pastors issued a statement of concern about restrictions placed on church aid workers trying to help thousands displaced by the slum clearance campaign known as Operation Murambatsvina - Shona for “Drive Out Rubbish.” They called on Harare not to interfere with relief work and to halt the demolitions and resettlements.