Satellite images show destruction of Zimbabwe community

Thursday, June 1, 2006

Human rights group Amnesty International has released satellite images showing how the Zimbabwean community of Porta Farm, which once housed some 10,000 people, has been completely destroyed. Taken in 2002 and 2006, the photos starkly contrast the previous built-up area with the empty scrubland that remains.

According to Amnesty International, residents of Porta Farm were given less than 24 hours notice to leave their homes. Human rights monitors reported that several people died in the chaotic environment of the ensuing demolitions and forced evictions. Two children were reportedly among the dead.

Zimbabwe's forced evictions programme (called Operation Murambatsvina) has been widely condemned both within Zimbabwe and beyond. A 2005 report on Operation Murambatsvina by United Nations Special Envoy Anna Tibaijuka estimated that it has cost 700,000 people their homes or livelihoods. She was present at Porta Farm during the second day of its demolition, and was shocked by the brutality of the evictions.

Residents of Porta Farm had fought eviction in the past, winning judgements from the High Court of Zimbabwe that they should not be evicted unless the government provided suitable alternative accommodation. However the High Court dismissed a contempt of court action that attempted to stop the 2005 evictions, giving no reason.

The Zimbabwean government (led by President Robert Mugabe) says that the programme is in the public interest and was not against the law. It has denied responsibility for the deaths.