Friday, June 03, 2005

2 million homeless due to gov't crackdowns

Nearly two million people in Zimbabwe's towns and cities have been left homeless, and a further 22,000 street traders have been arrested as President Robert Mugabe intensified a crackdown on opposition strongholds.

The 81-year-old President said bands of armed police - who have gone on the rampage in the past two weeks demolishing and burning down flea markets and other makeshift shop stalls, backyard shacks and informal settlements - are "cleaning up" the cities.

He also accused informal traders of involvement in the black market in foreign currency and other commodities in short supply.

Mugabe's critics complain he is pursuing a relentless campaign to crush all dissent and pre-empt any uprising on the back of the economic slump by hitting the same urban areas that largely voted against him in March elections.

The crackdown is also seen as punishment for urban voters who have rejected Mugabe's candidates in mayoral and parliamentary elections. He is mocked as "President of Zimbabwean rural areas".

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