Zimbabwe Demolishes Rural Homes

carousel - TV personality Keith Olbermann speaks onstage at the 20th Annual GLAAD Media Awards at the Marriott Marquis on March 28, 2009 in New York City.
Zimbabwe has extended the destruction of informal homes and businesses from the cities to rural areas, police told state radio Friday.

The government calls the campaign a cleanup effort, but critics at home and abroad say it is a violation of human rights and inspired by politics.

Police spokesman Austin Chikwavara said his force has started tearing down shacks and kiosks found at major crossroads in Chirumanzu, Umvuma and Lalapanzi in the Zimbabwe Midlands, between 124 miles and 186 miles south of the capital, Harare.

Another police spokesman, who was not identified, told the station police are also demolishing homes built without permission on some of the thousands of farms seized from their white owners for redistribution to black Zimbabweans.

However, Security Minister Didymus Mutasa maintained in the same broadcast that the monthlong campaign was aimed only at cleaning out city streets and would not affect the government's rural strongholds.

The government's Operation Murambatsvina, or Drive Out Trash, has already left more than 250,000 city dwellers homeless in the winter cold. Police also have arrested more than 30,000 vendors, accusing them of dealing in black market goods and attempting to sabotage Zimbabwe's failing economy.

President Robert Mugabe's dismissed propaganda chief condemned the evictions Thursday as "barbaric."

Jonathan Moyo, addressing his first public meeting in the capital since he was fired in January, said the blitz was linked to a power struggle within the ruling party over who would succeed the 81-year-old Mugabe.