Daily News  :: Southern Africa


UN report on Zim ready in two weeks�| A United Nations envoy who investigated Zimbabwe's razing of townships will present a report of her findings to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in about two weeks.

Zim demolitions move to the suburbs�| Zimbabwe's demolition campaign that has left hundreds of thousands homeless is reportedly moving to the plush suburbs of Harare where staff quarters, garages and other outbuildings could be razed.

Zim's evictions 'win praise countrywide'�| The Zimbabwean government has put the extent of displacement under its urban slum-clearance campaign at 130 000 families, saying it has put aside Z$3 trillion for reconstruction.

SA clergy paints bleak picture of Zimbabwe
Stuart Graham
Published: 13-JUL-05

Johannesburg - The deliberate destruction of the informal economy in Zimbabwe is unparalleled in modern-day Africa, church leaders said in a report released on Tuesday.

The demolitions of townships around Harare may also turn young Zimbabweans into catalysts for conflict, the church leaders said.

The report was compiled by 12 leaders from Christian churches who visited a transit camp about 30km south-east of Harare earlier this week to observe the effects of government-ordered demolitions that began in May.

"This deliberate destruction of the informal economy, which is meant to cater for the economically vulnerable groups, is unparalleled in modern-day Africa," said South African Council of Churches (SACC) president Russel Botman, reading from the report.

"The people we have engaged seem to believe that we have seen a humanitarian crisis last experienced in Zimbabwe during the liberation struggle.

"Young people who could be agents for change may become catalysts for conflict as they are exposed to the hopelessness of their parents."

The Zimbabwean government has razed shacks and shops - part of an urban renewal campaign, it said, to get rid of crime and social decay.

The United Nations estimates that 200 000 people have been left homeless as a result of the campaign.

Church leaders visited the Caledonia transit camp, which was created in the Ruwa area after the Zimbabwean government's Operation Murambatsvina, or Drive out Trash, campaign, which is linked to the Operation Restore Order campaign.

Victims of the campaign

The leaders included Anglican Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane, Catholic Cardinal Wilfred Napier and Rhema pastor Ray McCauley.

The report said the only existing shelters in the camp are plastic sheets supported by pieces of wood.

"Those displaced to Caledonia camp were told they would only be there for five days. By the time the delegation visited the camp, they had been there for one month. The displaced are living under inhuman conditions."

The report stated: "Because of the stress, trauma and lack of proper nutrition, mothers are unable to breastfeed their babies. Fathers who are denied the opportunity to support their families are loitering in transit camps, consumed by boredom and despair."

Street people and informal vendors are the main victims of the campaign. A considerable number are second-generation Zimbabweans whose parents and grandparents came from neighbouring countries. Many teenage parents in the camp were seen nursing tiny babies.

Food, water shortage

Botman said there is a shortage of water in the camps and there is bound to be a shortage of food because the next harvest of crops is only due in eight months.

Churches are providing blankets, tents and food to the 4 890 people in the camp, he said.

The delegation also visited a "shocking site" at the Mbare township, which was destroyed in the operation.

"Almost every yard was filled with rubble from the demolition of structures. A considerable number of people who have been living in Mbare for many decades had their homes and informal business structures destroyed," the report said.

When the delegation visited a Catholic church in the township, it was greeted by long queues of people waiting to collect their monthly food rations.

The report said: "This is illustrating a looming hunger crisis in Zimbabwe."

One of the SACC's proposals is to implement a national campaign of relief.

"The church of Christ can't afford to be a silent observer when poverty and homelessness is meticulously implemented," Botman said.

He said the SACC will show its report to President Thabo Mbeki if it is given the chance.

"We want to say to the president what the report was and how we got to it," he said.

Ron Steele, a member of the Rhema Church who was part of the delegation, said it is hoped that the report could be added to a UN report on the demolitions.

"We want to elevate the report to an international agenda," he said.

A UN envoy left Zimbabwe at the weekend after a two-week investigation. Mbeki has said he will consider what action to take after studying the UN report.

"We have got to do something urgently," Steele said. "One way is to get aid relief going. We will have to do much praying." - Sapa

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