Harare – Zimbabwean authorities evicted scores of people who were roughing it in a poor suburb of the capital Harare on Monday in apparent defiance of a court order, a human rights lawyer said.
Otto Saki of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) said the people had been
loaded onto the back of trucks in the early hours of Monday morning and taken to an unknown destination.
Saki said the eviction of the squatters, who had been camping out in open spaces in Harare’s Mbare suburb following the widespread demolition of shacks and cottages by the police in May, was in defiance of a court order obtained last month barring their eviction. More than 330 people were believed to have been living rough at the site.
“I saw the trucks leaving. They had cleared the place,” Saki said in a telephone interview. It was not immediately clear if the trucks were police trucks.
“It’s in complete disregard of the decisions of our courts and it makes a mockery of our justice delivery system,” the lawyer said.
In October the Harare High Court barred police and municipal authorities from evicting the squatters until they had found alternative accommodation for them.
Saki said the authorities might try to argue they had complied with the court order by finding an alternative place for them to stay. But he said Hopley Farm, where it is thought the squatters could have been taken, is a “place where people have been held in secrecy”.
On Sunday, The Standard reported that poor hygiene conditions at Hopley were likely to lead to the spread of disease.
The Standard said aid organisations had complained they were unable to reach ill people at the farm because it had been declared a “security area.”
The ZLHR was considering launching contempt of court proceedings against the authorities, Saki added.
Earlier this year President Robert Mugabe’s government launched Operation Restore Order, a countrywide police blitz on shanties, stalls and cottages deemed to have been built illegally.
The government said the operation was meant to stamp out the black market and reduce pressure on overcrowded urban areas.
The operation was condemned by the United Nations which estimates 700 000 people were made homeless and jobless by it.
The government has defended the operation, and has announced plans to build hundreds of thousands of new houses. – Sapa-dpa