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Zimbabwe Evictions Continue, Displaced Man Succumbs

Humanitarian and other sources confirmed that Zimbabwe police continued on Tuesday to evict residents from the Porta Farm squatter settlement outside the capital, Harare. Sources said police used force, beating residents and burning their belongings, including blankets given to them by relief organizations.

The continuing demolition of the few structures remaining at Porta Farm and the forced resettlements took place despite the issuance of a United Nations report Friday condemning such practices and urging that they cease immediately.

Reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe spoke with attorney Otto Saki of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, who was at the Porta Farm settlement Tuesday afternoon and witnessed conditions there.

In the region around Zimbabwe’s second-largest city of Bulawayo, meanwhile, a 40 year old man was reported to have died of exposure in Tsholotsho, a town to the northwest of the city. He was among about 100 people left off by authorities recently at the Tsholotsho district administrator’s office where they set up camp for lack of anywhere else to go. Humanitarian sources said the group had been forced to leave churches in Bulawayo where they had found shelter following the demolition of their homes in the two months since the “clean-up” drive began.

Reporter Netsai Mlilo of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe filed a report on the plight of the families, who share the fate of those who have been forcibly removed from the Helensvale Farm transit camp following the release of a U.N. report that condemned Harare’s Operation Murambatsvina, or “Drive Out Rubbish.”

With the focus of the international community turning to humanitarian assistance to victims of the two-month demolition spree, Harare is maintaining its refusal to formally request multilateral food assistance. The state-run Herald newspaper quoted Social Welfare Secretary Lancaster Museka as reiterating this.

The World Food Program has concluded that some 4 million people in Zimbabwe need food assistance – a number which has been increased by the displacement and interruption of livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people throughout the country. But donors are reluctant to fund food aid without a formal request.

Spokesman Robert Michel of World Vision, a major U.S.-based aid organization, was not yet delivering food on a massive scale as needed. He added that experts question whether the 1.2 million metric tonnes of grain Zimbabwe needs can be delivered to all of the nation’s hungry much before March or April 2006.

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