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Zimbabwe aid agencies in South Africa join hands
November 26, 2004,2172,92473,00.html

Zimbabwean civil society agencies (CSOs) based in South Africa have resolved to join hands to find a common approach to helping refugees who have fled to the country to escape poverty and persecution under Robert Mugabe's government.

CSOs working on humanitarian projects would coordinate their programmes under the umbrella of the Heal Zimbabwe Trust, Tendai Dumbutshena, its chairperson said today that after a weekend workshop in Braamfontein. Those dealing with issues of advocacy and governance would unite under the banner of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition. Each would remain responsible for the financing and management of its own projects.

The 21 CSOs' common goal was to create a genuinely democratic Zimbabwe, said Dumbutshena. Of the 3.4 million Zimbabweans about 25% of the country's population believed to have left the country, an estimated one to two million were living in South Africa, legally and illegally, they claimed. This was testimony that all was not well in Zimbabwe, they added, criticising the South African government's "quiet diplomacy" approach to the problem.

Foreign policy
It was time the South African government was true to its commitment to the guiding principles of the Southern African Development Community, the African Union and its own foreign policy premised on the need to uphold human rights throughout the world. Appealing to South Africa to consider as genuine asylum seekers those who had fled Zimbabwe because of political persecution or poverty, the organisations said many refugees were having a hard time submitting their applications to home affairs and getting them considered, claiming it processed only about five a week.

Others arrived destitute and were forced to beg on the streets, and some ended up living in "awful conditions" in the Lindela repatriation camp, said Elinor Sisulu, the co-ordinator of Crisis in Zimbabwe South Africa.

Joining forces would enable CSOs to avoid duplication of their work, develop common approaches to donors, exchange ideas and support each other's visions, giving them clarity of purpose and helping them come up with a common agenda. As things stood, it was difficult to quantify the work done on the humanitarian side since the upheaval began in 2000, with much of it carried out through informal assistance networks in a fragmented way, said Sisulu. Most of the CSOs were also relatively new, she said. - Sapa

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