Back to Index
This article participates on the following special index pages:
Operation Murambatsvina - Countrywide evictions of urban poor - Index of articles
anti-riot police force homeless to leave the shelter of churches
July 21, 2005
Bulawayo - Baton-wielding
police in full anti-riot gear descended on a number of churches
across the city last night and into the early hours of this morning
to forcibly remove several hundred homeless victims of Operation
Murambatsvina still sheltering in the churches. The victims of this
latest human rights outrage were awakened from sleep and bundled
with their few pathetic belongings onto the back of police trucks
believed to be headed for the holding camp recently established
at Balu Estate just north of Bulawayo.
The first church
to feel the brunt of the police assault was Agape Church in the
western suburbs which had been offering shelter to over 200 of those
whose homes had been destroyed in Operation Murambatsvina. The police
arrived there soon after 10 pm, wearing full anti-riot gear including
helmets and batons. Witnesses were appalled at the brutal way in
which men, women and children were forcibly removed from the premises.
The pastor of Agape Church, Pastor Lucky Moyo, was visibly angered
and distressed by the unlawful intrusion of the police onto church
premises and the ruthless treatment meted out to poor, defenceless
people now forcibly removed for the second time within a space of
a few weeks.
The police continued
the removal operation through the night, only arriving at the City
Presbyterian Church at 4 a.m. this morning and the City Baptist
Church some hours later. Their objective was clearly to remove all
the remaining internally displaced victims of what has been called
the "Mugabe Tsunami" from the churches to a holding centre
where they are less visible and access to them can be more easily
controlled. This move coincides with a recent tightening up of security
at the Balu Estate. On Tuesday a Bulawayo pastor who was visiting
his parishioners at the holding centre was interrupted in the course
of a service of worship and ejected from the site. The authorities
administering the camp even refused him permission to return and
collect his Bible. The holding centre is now effectively off bounds
to pastors and representatives of the Church.
Nqindi, the Rector of the (Anglican) Church of the Ascension, was
one of those who witnessed the brutal police action at Agape Church
last night. He described it as "cruel, nasty
It was he said "heart rending" to see the innocent victims
of the present social upheaval being carted off to face further
misery. A few hours later Fr Barnabas himself was arrested and taken
to the Ross Camp police centre where he was subjected to hostile
interrogation and verbal abuse by police details, some of whom were
so young they could hardly have been out of their teens. It was
noticeable that these young interrogators wore ZRP uniforms but
did not display any numbers or other identification. A number of
other pastors tried to intervene on behalf of Fr Barnabas but they
were chased away. Fr Barnabas was released from police custody at
about 4 am and told to report back at the police station at 9 am.
Apart from the
gross human rights abuses involved in their forcible removal, there
are fears for the well-being of those now held at the Balu Estate
Centre. The Red Cross had provided temporary accommodation in the
form of 100 tents, but this latest influx will take the number of
refugees to something in excess of 1100, for whom the facilities
are quite inadequate. The refusal of access to the Church and the
strict control of those entering and leaving the site are also matters
of grave concern.
pastor interviewed during this latest outrage commented, "It
is utterly barbaric. If this isn't a crime against humanity, then
I don't know what is. It is high time the UN (United Nations) intervened
to stop these atrocities."
Visit the Sokwanele
Please credit www.kubatana.net if you make use of material from this website.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License unless stated otherwise.