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Forced Resettlement Continues Despite Harare Declaration of Halt

Zimbabwean Vice President Joyce Mujuru said the government has finished its controversial drive to eliminate urban blight by demolishing homes determined to have been constructed illegally, the state-controlled Herald newspaper reported.

But humanitarian sources said authorities continued the forced resettlement of families and individuals displaced by the 10-week “clean-up” operation.

In New York, United Nations spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the organization would independently verify the Harare government’s claims.

The Herald quoted Mrs. Mujuru as saying “we have achieved what we intended” with the program, which started on May 19 with mass arrests of street vendors and other informal business owners and quickly expanded to the destruction of thousands of shacks and home additions in Harare, Bulawayo and other cities and towns.

Humanitarian sources said police Thursday removed the last inhabitants from a settlement at Porta Farm that had once housed 30,000 – many of them displaced to the location 20 kilometers west of Harare after a smaller demolition program in 1991 when authorities cleared out unsightly areas for a Commonwealth meeting.

The sources said police trucks ferried the few remaining residents of Porta Farm to Hopely Farm on the Harare-Chitungwiza road early today.

But the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights expressed concern, saying there are no structures at Hopeley Farm to accommodate them, and as no humanitarian relief was being provided, including tents, they would have to continue sleeping in the open.

At Porta Farm, meanwhile, Muslim worshippers at Porta Farm were tearing down their mosque, the last structure standing in the settlement. Correspondent David Mutomba of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe reported from the scene.

Harare meanwhile was appealing to the international community for assistance in building homes for the thousands without shelter. But critics said the government is merely acting under pressure from the United Nations and world opinion.

Carole Gombakomba of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe spoke with Jessie Majome, a spokesperson for Zimbabwe’s National Constitutional Assembly.

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