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in Bulawayo statement on the displaced people
July 20, 2005
in Bulawayo have been working hard to alleviate the suffering of
the displaced people. They consulted with the police commissioners
and the Governor and Resident Minister for Bulawayo.
in Bulawayo were allowed to shelter internally displaced people
who were willing to be resettled in the rural areas. This was agreed
at a stakeholders meeting held at the Social Welfare Provincial
Officer’s office on the 12th of July 2005. This was the
understanding between the police, social welfare, Non Governmental
Organisations (NGOs) and the churches. The rest of the displaced
people had to be moved to the transit camp. Churches as part of
the key stakeholders were allowed to pitch a tent at the transit
camp and had a representative there at all times.
On the 19th
of July, the representative of the Churches in Bulawayo at the Transit
Camp was asked to leave in the middle of a church service and threatened
that he should not come back without written authority from the
Governor. Efforts to get an explanation from the government officials
were fruitless. On the 20th of July 2005 at about 9.30pm
the police forced themselves into a number of churches where these
people had been kept. The churches had made plans to move them to
the rural areas. They had also prepared food packs, blankets and
seed packs to be distributed. In spite of all the arrangements and
agreements that had been made on behalf of these people the police
went on to commandeer them into open trucks. We watched with horror
as the operation unfolded.
these people were the sick, some who were on Anti- Ritro Virus (ARVs)
medication, the elderly, women and little children. One woman was
even pulled into the truck because she was frail. Children who were
already asleep were woken up by the riot police and frog marched
into the open police trucks. People who had corrugated sheets, metal,
timber and all that were left of their belongings were packed like
junk. This was the story in all the churches where they picked up
the people through out the city. This operation was undertaken under
the cover of darkness between 9pm and 5am. The removal of the innocent,
poor, weak, voiceless and vulnerable members of society by riot
police was uncalled for and unnecessary. It is inhuman, brutal and
insensitive and in total disregard of human rights and dignity.
These people are not criminals but bona fide citizens of this nation.
It seems the crime, they committed is that they are poor. It seems
the government does not have plans for poor people. This is evidenced
by the destruction of their simple structures and meager property
they owned. Four people died some are traumatized, depressed while
others are now insane because of the situation.
As the church
and the clergy we would like to register our protest in the strongest
sense of the word. The government misled us to believe that what
they discussed with us was in good faith. There was no need to take
the leadership of the churches in Bulawayo for questioning and later
the detention of one of our pastors on spurious allegations. This
was uncalled for, intimidation and harassment. They handcuffed him
and threatened him in a manner that is unwarranted. There is no
rule of law.
is impunity, which demonstrates a tyrannical rule in our beloved
country. The country faces major challenges of collapsing economy,
poverty and shortage of foreign currency which should be the concern
of the government. The poor people are only symptomatic to the crisis.
We would like
to restate our understanding of the agreed position. The churches
in Bulawayo are part of the stakeholders and should be allowed to
play their part. The churches advocate for a permanent place of
resettlement and release of the people that intend to go back to
their rural areas. School children have been displaced by this operation
which has denied them the right to education. We call on the government
and its officials to abide by the laws and not to be above it. The
rule of law must be restored. The churches should be allowed to
continue with their God given mandate and mission to be involved
with the displaced people as agreed to by the government earlier.
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