Zimbabwe: Police say five killed in clean up blitz

Fri 8 July 2005 HARARE - Five people including a police officer have been killed in accidents during President Robert Mugabe's urban clean-up drive, Zimbabwe police said yesterday.
Police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena absolved the law enforcement agency of any responsibility saying the deaths were all mishaps that could not be linked to any direct police action.

Bvudzijena said the five people also included two Harare children reported killed last month after demolished house structures collapsed on them. He did not give details on the other deaths.

The police official said more than 70 000 people had been arrested during the controversial urban clean-up drive exercise but added that most these had paid fines and had been released from custody.

International human rights watchdog Amnesty International said last week that at least three people, including a pregnant woman and a child, had died at the Porta Farm squatter camp near Harare and that there were unconfirmed reports of another death.

Several former residents of the camp also told United Nations envoy Anna Tibaijuka that a woman and a child were crushed by rubble, while another boy was run over by a truck. But the police denied these deaths.

Tibaijuka, who is expected to leave Zimbabwe today, has been in the country for the last two weeks probing the government's mass eviction of urban families and will compile a report for the world body's secretary general, Koffi Annan.

Close to a million people have been left homeless after the police demolished backyard cottages and shanty towns in a campaign that has drawn criticism from the international community. -ZimOnline