HARARE, Zimbabwe – Police carrying out a massive monthlong roundup detained thousands of capital residents, charging many were responsible for crime in Harare, state media reported Monday.
The detention of an estimated 10,000 of what the report called squatters, vagrants and street youths, comes nearly a year after the government demolished tens of thousands of shanty dwellings in what was billed as an urban renewal but drew harsh criticism from international groups.
This troubled southern African nation, led by authoritarian President Robert Mugabe, is facing its worst economic crisis since independence from Britain in 1980, with record inflation of 1,043 percent, the highest in the world.
Some of those detained in the latest crackdown will eventually be relocated to cities and towns outside Harare, according to the Herald newspaper, a government mouthpiece. There was no word on where they were being held in the meantime.
"We will not rest until there is sanity in the streets and the operation is continuing," police official Munyaradzi Musariri told the paper.
Civic groups accuse the government of targeting urban poor in clean up campaigns to break up strongholds of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change spawned by burgeoning economic hardships, charges the government denied.
In last year's crackdown, United Nations relief officials estimated at least 700,000 people lost their homes or livelihoods in that three month campaign that came at the start of the southern hemisphere winter. The shelters were demolished as night temperatures dropped to near freezing.
The government insisted the slum clearance last year was aimed at removing criminals, illegal traders and street vendors whose activities were fueling black market dealings in scarce commodities.
Disruptions in agricultural production after Mugabe ordered the seizure of more than 5,000 white-owned commercial farms began in 2000 led to acute shortages of food, hard currency, gasoline and essential imports.