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

  • World Council of Churches condemns Zimbabwe mass evictions
    Ecumenical News International (ENI)
    June 27, 2005

    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 statement.

    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' Conference.

    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 this year.

    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 Zimbabweans.

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