06-25-2005, 06:49 PM
love, blood, life
Join Date: Jan 2004
Location: The Wild West
Local Time: 04:00 AM
Mugabe orders army to rebuild shanty homes
By Christopher Munnion in Johannesburg
President Robert Mugabe has mobilised Zimbabwe's army to build new houses for those made homeless by his "clean-up" operation that flattened and burnt shanty towns across the country.
In a policy U-turn following a seven-hour meeting of his politburo, he announced that the military had been ordered to lead a task force to begin reconstruction.
"Building brigades" would start work immediately to build houses, shops and markets to replace those destroyed by the police in Operation Murambatsvina (Drive out the Rubbish), said Ephraim Masawi, the politburo spokesman. According to human rights groups, more than one million of the poorest Zimbabweans have been turned into the streets by special police units bulldozing and setting fire to townships.
Many, including the very elderly, women with babies and the disabled have been forced to spend freezing nights in the bush without shelter. At least 46,000 have been arrested.
The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) described yesterday's move as "a panic reaction by Mugabe" to the international outcry over the destruction of the shanty areas.
"Any new development these troops build will be cosmetic to deflect criticism ahead of the G8 meeting and the visit of the UN special envoy next week," a spokesman said.
The MDC said that what little government housing was available was allocated only to people who could produce a membership card for the ruling Zanu-PF Party.
"They will force these people to join Zanu-PF if they want a roof over the heads," the spokesman said.
Other analysts claimed that Mr Mugabe was angry at the heavy-handed way that police units, said to have been reinforced by paramilitary youth groups, carried out the operation. At least three children were killed when the shacks were demolished.
Patrick Chinamasa, the justice minister, admitted that "harm" had been caused to legitimate housing in the clean-up to "flush out black marketeers and criminals".