Zimbabwe opposition head slams Mugabe slum policy

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HARARE, Nov 12 (Reuters) Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai said today the government had failed to solve a humanitarian crisis caused by a slum clearance drive it launched in a Harare township two years ago.

According to the United Nations, about 700,000 people, were made homeless in 2005 when President Robert Mugabe's government launched ''Operation Restore Order'' in an effort to clear illegal settlements and curb crime and disease in parts of the capital.

Tsvangirai, who heads the main faction of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), said the government had failed to honour a pledge to provide accommodation for those it moved out of the slums.

''Contrary to government promises of reconstruction, what we are witnessing here is a humanitarian disaster,'' Tsvangirai said after touring the Hatcliff township, where some people continue to live in makeshift shelters without water or sanitation.

''This is testimony of lack of delivery ... democracy starts with a roof over your head.'' Tsvangirai, among dozens of anti-Mugabe activists arrested and beaten by police earlier this year during an abortive government protest, has a strong support base in Harare, especially in its poorer districts.

Zimbabwe is in the grip of its worst economic crisis since independence in 1980, with millions struggling to survive in the face of inflation above 7,900 per cent, unemployment of about 80 per cent and chronic shortages of food and fuel.

Many Zimbabweans have fled to the cities to try to find work and food, aggravating housing shortages in Harare and elsewhere.

The MDC blames the crisis on Mugabe's policies, including his controversial seizure of thousands of white-owned farms for redistribution to blacks.

The 83-year-old leader says Britain and other Western countries have sabotaged Zimbabwe's economy to try to bring down his government.

Reuters PJ DB2135

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