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This article participates on the following special index pages:

  • Operation Murambatsvina - Countrywide evictions of urban poor - Index of articles

  • South Africa: Partner organizations urge government to respond to Operation Murambatsvina
    The Institute for Justice and Reconciliation
    July 13, 2005

    A consortium of South African non-governmental organizations (NGOs) met in Pretoria on Tuesday 12 July 2005 to be briefed by colleagues who participated in a delegation of NGO and church leaders returning from a visit to Zimbabwe.

    The last time Africa witnessed forced removals on the scale of 'Operation Clean Up' was in apartheid South Africa. The liberation of Zimbabwe has clearly turned in on itself. No African government that has fought colonialism can use sovereignty to justify this naked assault on human dignity. A state earns the right to invoke the principle of sovereignty only if it accepts its responsibility to afford protection and comfort to its people.

    The delegation visited the Caledonia Transit Camp where 4890 newly displaced people find themselves under shelter of plastic in the harsh winter, with meagre food rations, without adequate sanitation, and no proper access to health care or education facilities. Humanitarian groups such as Christian Care and UNICEF are rendering the few services available, while the Zimbabwe Police manage the camp.

    Scores of babies, children and elderly people who were, until recently, living in informal and semi-formal settlements, supported by income generating activities, are now condemned to living on handouts supplied by foreign NGOs and churches. A delegate from the Great Lakes region remarked that the Caledonia Camp was every bit as bad as the displaced persons camps in northern Uganda.

    The struggle of the African people against oppression has always enjoyed regional and international solidarity. South Africa's freedom was won with support from African nations. The continent's hesitant response to the suffering in Zimbabwe in the face of such blatant disregard for human decency clearly undermines the gains of the struggles of the African people.

    The people and government of South Africa should not allow themselves to be complicit in this. We strongly urge the South African government, SADC and the AU, to heed the cries of the people of Zimbabwe. That country is experiencing neither an armed conflict nor a natural disaster; and there is no justification for internal displacement. The situation in Zimbabwe is not one of state collapse and warlordism. It is a case of a renegade state that has turned its repressive machinery on its own people in violation of the spirit of African liberation.

    We urge the South African government to respond to the insights and concerns of this delegation of South African church leaders and organizations of civil society. Having shared with the church leaders, we welcome and support the statement released by the SACC yesterday, and commit ourselves to support a national campaign of relief, assistance and solidarity to the victims of Operation Murambatsvina. We call on President Mbeki to mobilize South Africa, within the context of regional and continental engagement, to bring this crisis to an end.

    The Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (Idasa )
    The Zimbabwe Solidarity Forum.

    For further information, contact:

    Ivor Jenkins, Idasa,
    Kutlwanong Democracy Centre manager,
    012 392 0500

    Charles Villa-Vicencio,
    Executive Director of IJR,
    021 659 7122

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