WHEN President Mugabe’s Government announced plans to “clean up” the country’s cities more than two weeks ago, many Zimbabweans wondered what the innocent-sounding phrase really meant. Now they know.
Thousands of street stalls demolished. More than 23,000 informal workers arrested. Entire neighbourhoods burnt to the ground or razed by bulldozers. Hundreds of thousands of poor people left homeless in the middle of winter.
Human rights organisations call it something different. It is a “blatant violation of civil, political, economic and social rights”, Amnesty International said. The normally cautious United Nations said last week that the eviction of 200,000 people was creating a new kind of apartheid, where the cities were only for the rich. Miloon Kothari, the UN special rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, told reporters: “We have a very grave crisis on our hands.”