In 2002, Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe seized 5,000 white-owned farms, which led to the collapse of the country's agriculture-based economy, and forced residents to depend on relief aid. Then Mugabe brought the country's economy into further turmoil and beginning May 19, the government has been demolishing urban shantytowns and businesses in a program he calls Operation Murambatsvina, or Operation Drive Out the Trash. (Not coincidentally, those areas happen to be in areas where opposition to Mugabe is strongest.)
According to a just-released U.N. report, 700,000 people are now without homes or jobs in the country.
Yesterday, after churches gave shelter to many of the homeless, the Mugabe government's "armed riot police and ruling Zanu-PF youth militia rounded up hundreds of homeless peopleincluding infants sheltering in churches in [Zimbabwe's second-largest city,] Bulawayo," according to South African news sources.
"Police raided church halls rounding up people who had been sheltering there since their homes were destroyed in a so-called urban renewal drive, a human-rights lawyer said on Thursday," writes The Mail and Guardian.
Mugabe's Operation Murambatsvina (which some have translated "Operation Restore Order") is seen as a move to break up support for the opposition group and force reliance on Mugabe's food aid, which he is now receiving from South Africa.
"They stormed the church buildings like soldiers raiding an enemy camp," victim Standford Zulu said. "They threw out our few belongings and told us to go away."
An Anglican priest told the Johannesburg paper Business Day, "The memory of a naked 5-year-old child crying in the cold after being rudely awaken from her sleep by the riot police as they forced internally ...1