Back to Index
to South African Council of Churches on pastoral visit to Zimbabwe
Council of Churches (SACC)
July 13, 2005
Visit to Zimbabwe on 10-11 July
delegation of South African Church Leaders accompanied by a representative
of the All Africa Conference of Churches paid a pastoral visit to
Zimbabwe on 10-11 July 2005. Archbishop Ndungane, Anglican Archbishop
of Cape Town and Professor Russel Botman President of the SACC led
the SACC delegation. The pastoral visit was facilitated and hosted
by the Zimbabwe Council ofChurches (ZCC).
of the visit was to provide pastoral solidarity to the communities
affected by the recent "Operation Murambatsvina", described
by the Zimbabwe government as "Operation restore order"
and the churches ministering to them. The delegation visited the
Caledonia 'Transit' Camp, where displaced people have been relocated
to, and visited the Mbare Township from where some of the displaced
met with the Zimbabwean Church leadership, (representing the Zimbabwe
Council of Churches, the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe and
the Catholic Church). They were also briefed by Zimbabwe civil society
organisations, including the Zimbabwe Confederation of Trade Unions.
at caledonia transit camp
camp is located approximately 30 kilometres to the South East of
Harare in the Ruwa area. The place of relocation previously served
as a farm. There are no facilities' on or adjacent to the camp,
other then an old farm house. The displaced people informed the
delegation that they were given 30 minutes to pack their possessions
after which they were loaded on trucks and dumped in the Caledonia
The only existing
shelters are plastic sheets supported by pieces of wood. The displaced
persons themselves erected these inhabitable shelters. Government
made little effort to provide any services other than the members
of the Zimbabwe Republic Police who are managing the camp. Churches
and particularly Christian Care (the service arm of ZCC) provides
blankets, a few tents and food to the 4890 displaced persons. UNICEF
to Caledonia camp were told that they would be there only for five
days. By the time the delegation visited the camp they had been
there for a month, and were unsure of when they would move to an
improved situation. The displaced are living under inhuman conditions.
Scores of children, young people and unemployed parents and grandparents
have to eek out a measly existence on rations supplied by foreign
and local NGOs and Churches. 260 children are registered at a crèche
set up in the camp. On the day that the delegation visited only
30 children turned up and because it was cloudy and cold they played
inside of a building that had no room windows or a door.
and informal vendors are the main victims of the Operation. A considerable
number are born in Zimbabwe with parents from neighbouring countries.
Displaced people are, on the whole, income earners who had been
supporting their families and sending their children to school.
Taking away their economic productivity and reducing them to living
on relief supplies has stifled their creativity. A large number
of teenage mothers were seen in the camp nursing their children.
at Mbare township
shocking site greeted the delegation on entering Mbare Township.
Almost every yard was filled with rubble from the demolition of
structures. A considerable number of people who have been living
in Mbare for many decades had their homes and informal business
structures destroyed as part of "Operation Clean-up".
Extensions were made to houses to support the extended family and
in some instances to supplement old age pensions. These extensions
were broken down. The affected people sought shelter with families
and friends or ended up in the transit camps.
witnessed the desperate poverty of the people in Mbare Township.
On visiting a Catholic Church in the township the delegation was
greeted by long queues of people waiting to collect their monthly
food rations. This is illustrating a looming hunger crisis in Harare.
of the delegation
comes a time when human suffering is indescribable. What we have
seen is a small portion of the human suffering playing itself out
in the townships of Harare. At such times the Christian Church and
community is challenged to speak the truth in an uncompromising
manner. Such times demand unity of purpose amongst churches. The
cries of the affected people must be heard and seen, and the credibility
of the Gospel cannot be compromised. The dignity of people who are
created in the image of God must be affirmed.
In this instance
the affected people are the already vulnerable: self-employed, under-
employed and unemployed, taking care of dependant minor children,
youth and grandparents. Within no time these people have become
victims of a political and economic system. Their humanity has been
denied and their remaining dignity trampled upon. Their efforts
to survive through informal trading have been criminalized. Many
of the informal vendorswere laid off from employment in the formal
sector and started income generation projects.
We salute the
churches in Zimbabwe for the commendable interventions they continue
to make. While we continue to uphold them in prayers, we recognise
that they need our practical support in resolving the causes of
The church cannot
sit by idly when leaders treat their people worse than animals.
The situation is worsened when efforts at service delivery are restricted
by political objectives. The Church of Christ cannot afford to be
a silent observer when poverty and homelessness is meticulously
implemented. There are sinister motives informing government action
where the broad populaces are affected in townships and cities and
The pain and
hurt is visible in the eyes of children and the despair of parents
fuel their loss of dignity. Such observations are dominant in the
camps where the relocated have been dumped. The limited chances
to sustain a livelihood have been taken away from the relocated
families. "Operation Restore Order" fuels serious shortages
of food, and a humanitarian crisis last seen in Zimbabwe during
the liberation struggle.
who could be agents of change may become catalyst for conflict as
they are exposed to the hopelessness of their parents. Because of
the stress, trauma and lack of proper nutrition, mothers are unable
to breast-feed their babies. Fathers who are denied the opportunity
to support their families are loitering in transit camps, consumed
by boredom and despair. The deplorable health conditions have also
compromised the battle against HIV and Aids and other infectious
All of this
happens due to a lack of economic planning by the government. If
there is any planning it is poor and inconsiderate of the people
that government is meant to serve and take care of. The affected
people should have been provided with alternatives that are sustainable
and humane. Instead informal business people are sacrificed for
the formal economy. These people are removed from opportunities
to earn a living and driven to the periphery of society. This deliberate
destruction of the informal economy, which is meant to cater for
economically vulnerable groups, is unparalleled in modern day Africa.
are told that they must return to their rural homes. Most of these
people moved to the main centres of business driven by poverty and
a need to earn a living. Forcing them to return to rural areas where
there are water shortages, high levels of unemployment and skills
shortages is no solution. Such action is inconsiderate of its consequences
and the affected people. The next harvest will only happen in eight
of the poor and criminalizing their efforts for survival will not
resolve the political and economic problems of Zimbabwe. The timing
of the operation is when the Zimbabwean economy is at its worst
and in the heart of winter.
It is good for
'Law & Order' to be maintained, but like the Zimbabwean Church
leaders, we have a problem with the manner and methods that are
inhuman. Local government and authorities are not involved in the
provision of services to the relocated people. The Zim $ 3 trillion
that government offers will only be able to build 3,000 (three thousand)
and other service providers are placed in an invidious position.
Through their humanitarian assistance they could be considered to
be complicit in the suffering of the affected communities. While
churches do not condone the actions of government they are obliged
to provide support to the displaced people. Consistent efforts to
meet with government failed to yield any results.
concerned that such transit arrangements tend to become permanent.
There is no
rationale for Zimbabweans to be internally displaced, except for
the fact that people are economically driven. The delegation encourages
leaders in Southern Africa to consider the threat of economic displacement
in the economic models they pursue. What was\experienced by the
delegation was a situation seen in Somalia. In the case of Somalia
the reasons for the devastation of the livelihood of the poor was
due to natural causes. However in the case of Zimbabwe the sad situation
of the destruction of livelihood and family life is due to the orchestration
of a government which cannot recognise that it has dumped its people
into another crisis from which they will have difficulty returning.
The way forward
delegation having had the experience of seeing the devastating poverty
and turmoil in the lives of those cruelly and inhumanly displaced
by the Zimbabwean government are convinced that tangible and sustainable
efforts need to be put in place to save Zimbabwe's poor from complete
destruction. We hereby offer the following proposals for consideration
by the SACC Central Committee.
1. For the
SACC to plan and execute a National Campaign of Relief.
2. To organise a solidarity letter campaign.
3. To organise a prayer campaign focusing on the plight of the
4. Organise a Civil disobedience campaign.
- Prof Russel
Botman: President of the South African Council of Churches Archbishop
Archbishop of Cape Town Cardinal
- Wilfred Napier:
Catholic Archbishop of Durban and President of SA Catholic Bishop's
- Pastor Ray
McCauley: President of International Fellowship of Christian Churches
Njeru Wambugu: All Africa Conference of Churches.
- Bishop Ivan
Abrahams: Presiding Bishop of the Methodist Church in Southern
Africa and Chair of Church leaders Forum.
- Dr. Coenie
Burger: Moderator of the Dutch Reformed Church and member of SACC
- Father Matt
Esau: Anglican Church of Southern Africa
- Mr Eddie
Makue: Deputy General Secretary of the SACC
- Rev Ron Steele:
- Mr Paul Graham:
- Mr. Paul
Nantulya: Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR)
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.