Zimbabwe police continue urban blitz in northern Harare

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Harare (dpa) -- Seven weeks into a controversial clean-up campaign, police in Zimbabwe have ordered people in a low-income Harare suburb to demolish illegal buildings, a resident said Tuesday.

The man, from Hatcliffe in the north of the capital, said police on Monday ordered people in the suburb to dismantle informal businesses like hair salons and small grinding mills.

They were also ordered to knock down backyard cottages as they had been built without official permission.

''They (police) have been ordering people to destroy what hasn't been approved,'' the resident, who asked not to be named, said in a telephone interview.

''They're going to bring in a bulldozer today (Tuesday),'' he added.

Since May 19, police, backed by bulldozer teams, have been demolishing backyard shacks and cottages, flea markets and squatter camps in a ''clean-up'' programme dubbed Operation Restore Order.

Human rights groups say the campaign has made at least 300,000 people homeless and put 750,000 informal traders out of work.

A special U.N. envoy on housing is currently in the country to investigate the humanitarian effects of the campaign.

Some people who had cottages demolished in Hatcliffe Monday spent the night out in the open with their furniture, and homeless families could be seen milling about Tuesday morning, said the resident.

''We thought this thing (Operation Restore Order) had stopped, but they're carrying on,'' he said.

Trudy Stevenson, the opposition lawmaker for the constituency, confirmed the demolitions.

The government had announced an end to the operation, and the launch of a reconstruction programme aimed at providing two million new houses over the next five years.

U.N. Special Envoy Anna Tibaijuka, who has been in Zimbabwe for more than a week, was meanwhile set to visit the country's second city of Bulawayo Tuesday as part of an extended investigation into the impact of the clean-up.

President Robert Mugabe's government says the operation is necessary to relieve pressure on overburdened municipalities.

But the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) claims it is a purge of its supporters in towns and cities. dpa rt wjh

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