Zimbabwe squatters evicted

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The Independent Online
HARARE - Zimbabwe police moved yesterday to evict about 20,000 homeless people squatting on an opposition-owned farm despite a court order blocking their removal. About 500 paramilitary police, armed with assault rifles, shotguns, batons and tear-gas canisters sealed off the farm belonging to an opposition leader, Ndabaningi Sithole.

'They went round the settlement telling us that we must get off in an hour otherwise they would throw us out,' a resident said.

The police moved in hours after the return of a majority of the settlers who had fled earlier threats to evict them. Most came back after a court said moves to evict them were irregular. Mr Sithole, leader of the small right-wing Zanu-Ndonga party which broke away from President Robert Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF in the mid-1970s, described the evictions as thuggish. 'We have bullies for rulers and they have no respect for the law,' he said, adding he suspected the decision to defy the court was taken at a cabinet meeting yesterday.

Mr Sithole was away at one of his Harare homes when the evictions started. 'I went to the farm and the police said they were carrying orders from their seniors . . . but we are going to contest this action,' he said.

Two weeks ago, the government asked about 2,000 families - each with an average of five members - to quit the farm, calling it a health hazard too close to Harare's water supply. Many families left and set camp on the edge of the Churu farm at the weekend before an original 30 October deadline.

The government extended the ultimatum to 2 November and sent hundreds of armed police forcibly to remove those who resisted. But a judge barred the removals on Monday.

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