Mr Mugabe`s 2005 Operation Murambatsvina (Throw out the Trash) left up to 700,000 people homeless around the country. It was widely seen as a punishment for the urban poor who overwhelmingly voted for the then opposition MDC in that year`s general election.
Although the brutal campaign was widely condemned at the time by the MDC, the party – in a transitional government with Zanu-PF since last February – believes such evictions are again necessary because of health and safety concerns linked to last year`s cholera epidemic.
Harare mayor Muchadeyi Masunda told news agency IRIN, which is linked to the United Nations, that the council could not allow slums to thrive in the capital city when 4,000 people died and 100,000 more were infected with cholera in last year`s epidemic. "If we allow illegal settlements to continue increasing, and then we get another cholera outbreak during the coming rain season, such illegal settlements would certainly encourage the spread of waterborne diseases because they don`t have proper sanitation facilities," Mr Masunda said.
Despite the formation of the transitional government, local government remains ineffective, with most townships still without running water, functioning sewerage systems and refuse collection.
Amnesty International yesterday accused city council members of being insensitive to the plight of the thousands of poor who would be affected by the new campaign. The majority of those who will be affected by the new wave of evictions are woman and men who sell fruit and basic goods from makeshift stalls along the side of the road or in market areas.
Hundreds of people living in informal settlements along Harare`s waterways and around the wealthy suburbs of Gunhill and Borrowdale are also facing eviction.
"The wholesale prohibition of unemployed people from selling their wares prevents them from earning a living and violates their right to work. Formal unemployment in Zimbabwe is reputed to be above 90 per cent," said Amnesty. "The bulk of the urban population, particularly women, survive on informal trade. The council must desist from taking measures that drive people deeper into poverty.