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Operation Murambatsvina - Countrywide evictions of urban poor - Index of articles
Council of Churches condemns Zimbabwe mass evictions
News International (ENI)
The World Council
of Churches has condemned the Zimbabwe government's programme of
house demolitions and mass forced evictions that have left hundreds
of thousands of Zimbabweans homeless. The council called for an
immediate end to the crackdown. "To carry out such acts of cruelty
with impunity against her own people shows clearly that the government
is losing the moral and ethical ground for leadership, healing and
reconciliation," the Geneva-based church grouping said in a 27 June
United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan's special envoy, Anna
Kajumulo Tibaijuka, arrived in Zimbabwe on 26 June to assess the
campaign which has rendered more than one million people homeless
over the past month, raising massive condemnation from the Church,
civic organizations and the international community.
As the envoy arrived, the independent weekly Standard newspaper
reported that the exercise in which heavily armed policemen bulldoze
shacks deemed illegal, had now claimed the lives of six people including
four children. The Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe and the
Zimbabwe Teachers Union told the newspaper that as many as 300 000
children had dropped out of school after their homes were destroyed.
Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, who has thrown his weight behind
the operation, said he would meet the UN envoy to enable the global
body "to understand and appreciate what we are trying to do for
our people who deserve much better than the shacks that are now
being romanticised as fitting habitats for them".
The WCC in its statement noted the action was taking place during
Zimbabwe's winter months and at a time when rural areas are suffering
from the effects of a drought. "It is difficult to [understand]
the political rational why the government has embarked on this inhuman
campaign," the WCC said, adding its support to condemnatory statements
by the Zimbabwe Council of Churches and the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops'
Pope Benedict XVI on 27 June held a meeting at the Vatican with
Zimbabwe's Roman Catholic bishops, including Archbishop Pius Ncube,
who has been reported saying he would rather die than stay silent
in the face of widespread human rights abuses in his country.
The Catholic bishops in a pastoral letter had earlier condemned
"the gross injustice done to the poor" through the campaign called
"Operation Murambatsvina", which means "Operation Drive Out Trash"
in Shona, the language spoken by a majority of Zimbabweans. Officials
have said the action was intended only to spruce up the images of
its cities and to flush out criminal activities.
But opposition politicians have described the operation as retribution
against the urban population for supporting the opposition Movement
for Democratic Change (MDC) party in parliamentary elections earlier
The WCC in its statement said the Zimbabwe government should initiate
dialogue with the opposition, churches and civil society groups
and begin the process of addressing the real needs of suffering
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