Thursday, June 30, 2005

More Thoughts from Bulawayo: 26 June 2005

By Anonymous

It is now 2 weeks since the start of the destruction of peoples’ homes in Bulawayo, and at the churches, we are now settling into a routine (which in reality is anything but a routine) of sorting out the daily things which need to be done.

One church here is providing shelter to 300 people, another two have over 100, another about 60, and the others (there are 8 in all) I do not have numbers for.

Feeding is obviously the main need, and most days I have been to one of the central storerooms where the churches can access emergency food. People are being fed on mealie meal, kapenta (dried fish), sugar beans, and fresh cabbage or tomatoes, or other vegetables as they become available. All but one of the churches is cooking on open fires, so you can imagine the logistical exercise taking place on a daily basis to bring firewood from outlying areas into the churches to cook for this number of people. This being winter, of course, people are prone to stoke up the fires and keep them going for longer than is strictly necessary, for the warmth and comfort they offer. And with diesel and large trucks so hard to come by, it is a tough job; garages no longer sell firewood the way they used to, because the whole informal sector is in tatters, and they were the ones who used to gather this and sell it to the garages.

Second-hand clothes pour into the churches on a daily basis too, as people go through their cupboards and see what can be put to good use, but it also takes manpower to sort through the clothes and distribute them.

We have had some very generous gifts of blankets, so there is not a shortage of these at present, but (as with the clothes) it is hard to distribute them equitably, although one does one’s best.

Someone brought in a whole sackful of cuddly toys, and it was great to distribute these to the children. They have long days – as do the adults – with very little to fill them.

My greatest concern at the moment is that disease will strike; it has the potential to spread rapidly in these conditions. Over the weekend, I heard that one of the young men had to be taken to hospital, as he had caught some infection and had become very weak; I don’t know if they will have the drugs there to treat him, but am sure that the churches can help pay for them if need-be.

From the perspective of those of us who are involved, the city seems split into two sectors: those who know (and care) and those who don’t. I couldn’t believe it when I heard that the doctor at the hospital professed complete ignorance of what had happened! We also need more churches to open their doors to the displaced, as still more people are moved into town, and as this callous exercise continues. Bizarrely, it is a real blessing to have these people staying at our church, as it keeps the issue squarely before our eyes, and we cannot stay in our comfort zones when we come to church and see them. It has been great to get to know individuals among them: often not much more than knowing their name, and having a few brief words with them during the day, but they have Names and Identities, and are not just “displaced people”.

The churches are working with the local authorities toward a solution to this situation, but given who the perpetrators are, it is difficult to see a real political will to re-housing these people in a dignified manner. It seems almost certain that they will be moved from the churches to an interim place, prior to a final home (I use the word guardedly: no structure will ever be provided for them; the most they can expect is a plot of land). But this means subjecting them to yet more trauma as they will have at least 2 more moves ahead of them. And who knows how long the “interim place” will be for….

There is a mood of uncertainty around; no-one knows what will happen next. It is good to be forced to depend on God as our Lord, our Sustainer and our Provider – we have no choice but to depend on Him. We really do take each day at a time, we cannot think ahead, but God has been so faithful. Please keep praying for these people – men and women made in God’s image, but being treated as “trash”(Operation Murambatsvina translates as “Drive out the trash”). Indeed, we cry for Zimbabwe.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Service of Prayer and Lament by Pius Ncube

Sunday 26th June 2005 comemorates the "United Nations Victims of Torture Day". Christians Together for Justice and Peace have arranged a service on 25th June.

What better time to stand together with people of similar principles and the victims of the recent demolitions which have left so much suffering. Show your Christian solidarity and practice the Kingdom Values from the strength of your faith.

All people regardless of their faith who believe in the principles of Justice and Peace will be welcome. If you can not be there remember at your Sunday Service.


“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach the good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour”. (Luke 4/18-19)


Christians Together for Justice and Peace
Praying for the Nation
Saturday 25th JUNE 2005
10 a.m.

Extracts from CTJP Mission Statement

• To promote the Kingdom principles of truth, justice and peace against all the idolatrous policies and practices of the present regime

• To enunciate clearly the Biblical principles of servant leadership and just governance

• To expose evil wherever we see it in the structures, policies and practices that enslave our people, and to call the nation to repentance before the truth which God reveals to those who have eyes to see and ears to hear

• To demand that the basic human rights, which we understand to be God-given, be respected by all. Specifically this includes the freedom of expression, association and assembly

• To promote a programme of education for all whereby each person comes to a realization of his or her human dignity and God-given human and social rights, and is encouraged to work towards the attainment of those rightsTo assert the rule of law and to make a united stand against the violence and lawlessness that are spiraling out of control and causing untold suffering

• To stand alongside the victims of violence, lawlessness and injustice in our society as an act of Christian solidarity, and to offer succour where we can

• To provide a space where the victims can tell their stories, and where necessary to be a voice for those who cannot or dare not speak the truth

• To demand an end to he present culture of impunity which benefits those closely associated with the ruling party and encourages acts of violence and lawlessness. Against this growing trend we set ourselves to see that the perpetrators, and those who sponsor them, are brought to justice

• To express our Christian solidarity with those, including but not limited to our own number, who are bravely witnessing to the Kingdom values in society and who are being persecuted for that witness

• To demand an end to the use of food as a political weapon, and to use our own best efforts, in conjunction with the relevant NGO’s and donor agencies, to lobby for the distribution of food aid on the basis of human need and without regard to race, ethnic origin, political affiliation or other such criteria

• To lobby for the adoption of a just and equitable Constitution in which the core values of the Kingdom are enshrined

Monday, June 20, 2005

A Week in the Life of Bulawayo: 17 June 2005

By Anonymous

It’s hard to describe the events of the last week of chaos but, looking back, “they” have gone beyond the bounds of what we could ever have imagined.

Last Saturday, the police (some say the militia) moved into a squatter camp on the edge of the city, smashing down houses, burning them, and then destroying whatever was still left. People were left in the open; they managed to pull all their belongings into one spot in the ruins, and were camped around them. Going down there at night, the small fires were burning in the ruins, around which people were cooking and huddled for warmth. I met an old man there, the picture of sad dignity; as he was telling me his story, one tear appeared at the corner of his right eye, and rolled down his cheek. One elderly woman told me how her husband had died some time back, and her daughter had just died in the last couple of weeks, leaving her with the 3 grandchildren to look after: now she had no home left from which to care for them.

By Sunday, the relief operation had started in earnest: mainly individuals going out in their own vehicles to pick up anyone who wanted to come into the safety of the churches in town. Understandably, most did not want to move without taking their belongings with them; these included dogs, chickens, picks, wheelbarrows, beds, wardrobes, roofing sheets…. It was heart-rending to see how the possessions of one family, and all the family members could be fitted into one small private vehicle.

This whole operation of bringing people into the safety of town has been hampered by the fuel crisis which we have been experiencing, on and off, for 4 years or so. It is now probably at its worst ever – cars are locked in queues at the side of the road leading up to fuel stations, in the hope that a delivery might come. Productive time is spent, not in generating incomes for individuals and in boosting the economy, but in fuel queues. Truck drivers are in the fuel queues and are not available for hire. Resources are strained, yet somehow many people have been moved over the last 6 days.

The churches which have opened their halls to these displaced people, now resemble scrap-iron yards. The corrugated iron sheets from roofs, the wheelbarrows and sundry other possessions – all are piled up outside, and the people sleep inside on the floor, using donated blankets. During the day the children wander around, or play ball (in the cases where some kind person has donated a soccer ball); the women are busy with their usual chores of washing clothes, bathing the children and so on. Many of the men are absent during the day, returning at night to eat and sleep. There is an air of crazy normality within this completely abnormal, man-made crisis.

The impact on their homes, possessions and life is evident. What is not so evident is the trauma that this brutal uprooting must have caused.

In terms of background, the area which was destroyed was the site of a rural village, but as economic hardships increased over the last years, people flooding into Bulawayo set up their homes there - some little more than shacks. Many of the residents had been there for a number of years; quite a few were originally from Malawi, Zambia or South Africa; some were victims of the farm seizures, having lost their jobs as the farms they were on were seized. These diverse people have diverse needs, and the future is uncertain. The churches do not know how long these people will need to stay on their premises, and are taking a day at a time, receiving food, blankets, old clothing and so on from well-wishers. The regime seems to have no plan for assisting these people – not surprising, given the callousness of the operation.

So we continue: taking one day at a time by God’s grace. If you do nothing else, then please at least pray for us all in Zimbabwe.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Silent Diplomacy Can't Stop Mugabe's Mission

Kate Hoey reports from Harare in the Guardian:
IN TWO WEEKS’ TIME, at a luxury hotel in Scotland, Tony Blair will sit down to dinner with President Mbeki of South Africa, an unashamed ally and apologist of the monstrous Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe. As the two leaders wine and dine in Gleneagles, Robert Mugabe’s riot police will be engaged on their brutal and systematic mission to destroy the homes and livelihoods of some of the poorest people in Africa.

How can Mr Blair talk blithely of making poverty history when African leaders led by Thabo Mbeki allow such atrocities to continue unchallenged on their doorstep? The South African President must take huge responsibility for the terror and humanitarian disaster which I have seen over the past week in Zimbabwe.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005


by Trudy Stevenson

Like most of us, I have been trying to work out why the regime has embarked on this Operation Murambatsvina - "Operation Arrest and Destroy Everything" as I translate it freely!

It makes no sense, at first glance, for them to be turning people against them at this moment, especially their own people! And quite a lot of the dispossessed are their own people. The majority of Hatcliffe Extension voted ZanuPF in March, not because they necessarily supported that party, but they were too intimidated to do anything else. White Cliff was set up by war vets, ultra-ZanuPF supporters! Harare South has a ZanuPF MP.

I believe there are several reasons for the apparent madness:

a) Retribution - the cities voted MDC, and they need to be taught a lesson.

b) Distraction - people don't notice the failure of the state and the drastic economic decline if they are busy salvaging their wordly possessions - and even their lives! There is also a lot that can be done under the cover of "Arrest and Destroy Everything" - like sorting out the Tsholotsho element!

c) More sinister, however, is the Pol Pot agenda: drive everyone out of the towns and cities back into the rural areas, so they cannot organise themselves and challenge the regime. I doubt that Mugabe really believes they will grow food. If those already in the rural areas are not growing food, why would urbanites do any better? And where are their inputs and implements, and where are they going to be settled? Indeed, where is food available at present? In the cities, not in the rural areas. So - drive people out into the rural areas, and they are likely to starve to death, this year. Extreme? Wasn't it a minister who said a few years ago Zimbabwe would be better off without the 6 million who can't be fed, anyway? He is now a very senior minister.

I do not think we should assist in moving people out of town. That will not help those people, in the long run, especially if my analysis is correct. They will be much worse off in the rural areas. We need to find ways to allow people to remain in their homes and on their stands, especially if they have been paying rent there. If "The People's Choice" was really concerned about people and the cleanliness of the cities, they would first have established the market places (many official market places have been destroyed by the regime) and the alternative accommodation (many people had lease agreeements or paid rent to government/city council), and THEN moved the people.

That they did not do so indicates, in my view, that Operation Arrest and Destroy Everything is intended literally to get rid of a lot of what they consider rubbish - for good. Let us not allow them to do that. Let us stand in solidarity with the suffering and the dispossessed, and help them in every way we can to regain their human dignity and their livelihoods.

It is time to stand together, as Zimbabweans.

Trudy Stevenson MP
Harare North Constituency

Squatter Camp Demolished

Our Bulawayo correspondent sends us these pictures:

These are photos of the Killarney squatter camp this last weekend (12 June). The police came in on Saturday and demolished the houses (which were really little more than shacks) and then burned them. People were left out in the open with no shelter - remember it is winter here - and very fearful. The police also threatened to come back with dogs and horses on the Monday to remove anyone who was left.

From Saturday onwards, the churches (mainly) moved in to remove as many people as possible. Those with bakkies (4X4 style vehicles) came in and helped, and since then a number of larger trucks have been in. We also are in the middle of a serious fuel crisis, with very little diesel around, so that makes the transport situation even worse.

The problem is - understandably - that people will not move without their possessions - including roofing sheets, beds etc. Some people have nowhere else to go, others could go to their rural homes, but transport there would be beyond their means.

Many of the churches, including ours, have opened their church halls to them, and the people are camped there until a more permanent solution can be found. This is a humanitarian crisis of huge proportions. I am sending you a letter from an MDC MP in Harare, where a similar situation prevails - that gives some of the background.

Please pray - please put it on your prayer chain - please email congressmen - these people are desperate, and it is all so unnecessary. How long, O Lord?

One real thing to give thanks for, though, is the response of individual churches and many many Christians (as well as others, of course) - it has been heart warming to see.

Monday, June 13, 2005

The Current Crisis

A reporter within Zimbabwe describes the crisis presently facing the people of Zimbabwe:
Things are AWFUL here this weekend - we have spent much of the time ferrying people and belongings from the squatter camp which was demolished to various places around the city. We have 26 children camped in our place at present.

Please pray that this madness will stop - nothing short of a miracle will do it, as I can't see any earthly person or thing doing so. These people are out in the cold (remember it is winter here now) and the few possessions that they have are standing in the middle of fields with no walls around them any more. Please get the word out, and particularly ask the churches to PRAY.

Urgent Letter from Dave Colthart

(Dave Coltart is Shadow Minister of Justice, Zimbabwe.)

Dear Friends:

In the course of last week thousands of poor Zimbabweans living in Harare, Bulawayo and other urban centres have had their lives destroyed by an increasingly vicious, brutal and paranoid regime. On the pretext of a “clean up” the regime’s police and army have systematically gone through our cities and towns arresting street vendors, confiscating their goods and destroying homes of poor people.

Whilst there is no doubt that some of these road-side shops and shacks are an eyesore and unhygienic, and whilst there is no doubt that virtually all are strictly speaking “illegal”, they have to be seen in the context of the fastest shrinking economy in the world which in turn is characterized by 80% unemployment and rampant inflation. The state of the economy is a direct result of the insane policies implemented by the Mugabe regime since 1997 when it first decided to send troops to protect its leaders’ interests in the Congo.

The chaotic land invasions orchestrated by the regime from 2000, to secure its grip on power, have dealt a near deathblow to the economy. Its dual exchange rate policy, designed to protect the ruling elite’s standard of living (by giving the elite ready access to cheap foreign currency), has devastated the productive sector. The low interest rate policy, designed to lessen the State’s debt, has all but destroyed the pensions of hundreds of thousands of ordinary Zimbabweans. The regime’s excessive spending on protecting itself and maintaining the elite’s luxurious lifestyle has resulted in greatly reduced spending on health, housing and education.

The vast majority of the people affected by this callous campaign are victims of these policies. Through no fault of their own they have been driven out of the formal sector and to survive have had to try to earn an honest living by street vending. Because the regime has spent billions on a huge military and a bloated, inefficient and corrupt cabinet, rather than on housing, hundreds of thousands have been forced to build shacks so that they have a roof above their heads. What is more is that these practices have been allowed to develop for years under a succession of Zanu (PF) governments which have done nothing either to allocate sufficient resources to build vending sites and low cost houses or to police these breaches of the law.

What is particularly outrageous about this pogrom is that no warning of it has been given and no alternative arrangements have been made for homeless people to move to or for unemployed people to get an alternative source of income. No plans have been announced as to how these people will be provided with an income or where the dispossessed will be housed. Indeed given the collapse of the economy it is hard to see how this regime will be able to do either. This regime cannot even find sufficient resources to pay for fuel so how is going to provide jobs and homes for the thousands of people affected?

What is particularly egregious, sinister and callous about this pogrom is that it has been done at the commencement of winter and at a time when millions are already facing starvation and are affected by Aids and have no access to medication.

I have no doubt that this pogrom will dramatically increase the number of deaths of poor Zimbabweans afflicted by the deadly combination of Aids, no access to drugs and malnutrition. The sudden removal of a source of income and a warm bed will condemn many to death in the coming weeks and months.

What is astonishing is the callousness of this regime, graphically illustrated in the two recent extracts from the regime’s Herald newspaper set out below. It is interesting that these articles are written by journalists who owe their allegiances to the regime for even they capture the desperation of the innocent poor. The words “panic stricken”; “distraught”, “shocked” and “grim faced” are used to describe the feelings of the poor. In contrast Robert Mugabe and the Police Commissioner use dismissive and aggressive language. The poor are criminals whose “illegal source of livelihood has been hemorrhaging the economy”. The poors’ “insatiable desire for corruption” has permeated the economy. The poor areas are “havens for illicit and criminal activity” in the words of Mugabe. He says there is a need to “remedy such ills”.

The truth is that it is Robert Mugabe’s regime that is primarily responsible for massive corruption which is not only some of the worst type of criminal activity but has also destroyed the economy and forced these poor Zimbabweans into penury. During the same period that millions of Zimbabweans have been impoverished and rendered homeless Robert Mugabe and his ruling elite have become fabulously wealthy, evidenced by their construction of mansions costing billions of dollars. A photograph of Mugabe’s new mansion, nearing completion in Harare, is attached. It should be stressed that his mansion is just one of many built by the Zanu elite in the last few years. The Governor of the Reserve Bank, whose recently announced policies appear to promote and at least endorse this pogrom, has himself recently built a mansion which according to reports rivals Mugabe’s.

The truth is also that this exercise has very little to do with a genuine desire to improve the lives of Zimbabweans. It has everything to do with a campaign of retribution against people who are, correctly, perceived to oppose the regime. It has everything to do with their fear that these same people will rise up in revolt against a regime that has been responsible for the destruction of the lives, hopes and dreams of millions of Zimbabweans. It has everything to do with instilling fear in the hearts and minds of these people before they rise up.

One thing is for certain: the good Lord knows everything and sees everything. The Lord knows the truth and the real motives behind these actions. The Lord also abhors actions by the rich and powerful that trample on the poor. This regime should soberly consider the application of Amos 5 to their actions:
You who turn justice into bitterness and cast righteousness to the ground
You hate the one who reproves in court and despise him who tells the truth.
You trample on the poor and force him to give you grain. Therefore, though you have built stone mansions, you will not live in them; though you have planted lush vineyards, you will not drink their wine.

For I know how many are your offenses and how great your sins.
You oppress the righteous and take bribes and you deprive the poor of justice in the courts.
Therefore the prudent man keeps quiet in such times, for the times are evil.
Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the Lord God Almighty will be with you, just as you say he is.
Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts.
Let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream.

The Bible is replete with other verses which set out the consequences for rulers who act in such a heartless and callous fashion. History also shows that autocratic rulers who have employed similar policies have been the authors of their own demise through their actions. I have no doubt that the same fate is going to befall this autocratic and brutal regime. Ironically actions such as these speed up a regime’s end.

In the interim we, for our part, will do everything possible to protect those affected by the depredations of this regime. We will do all in our power to expose the extent of the devastation, to use the courts to suspend these immoral actions and to mobilize communities to oppose the regime lawfully, peacefully and non-violently.

In doing so we hope that people everywhere will also express their outrage and condemn these actions. Now is the time for the international community to intensify pressure on this regime to respect basic human rights, to restore the rule of law in a just and humane manner and to respect the democratic will of the electorate through the holding of free and fair elections that comply with international electoral standards.

Let Justice, indeed, roll on like a river.

Yours sincerely,

David Coltart MP
Shadow Justice Minister