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Four clergymen detained in Zimbabwe raid
Hartnack, Associated Press (AP)
HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP)
- Police raided church halls in Zimbabwe's second-largest city, rounding
up people sheltering there since their homes were destroyed in a hated
urban renewal drive that has displaced hundreds of thousands, church leaders
At least four clergymen
were detained in Wednesday's raids in Bulawayo, which came ahead of the
anticipated release of a U.N. report on the demolition campaign.
The government of
President Robert Mugabe defends the campaign as a cleanup drive in overcrowded,
crime-ridden slums. The opposition says it is aimed at breaking up its
strongholds among the urban poor and forcing them into rural areas where
they can be more easily controlled by chiefs sympathetic to the government.
Police raided nine
churches in Bulawayo overnight, arresting between 50 and 100 people at
each, said the Rev. Kevin Thompson of the city's Presbyterian Church.
``It was pretty brutal
and horrific,'' he said. ``They had elderly folk, and they were piling
them onto vehicles; they were frog-marching children ... who had been
asleep, and Bulawayo is very cold at the moment.''
South African Methodist
Bishop Rubin Phillip said he was briefly detained for questioning with
three other clergymen when they went to investigate reports that police
were evicting people from their churches.
He accused the ruling
party of a ``deliberate retribution campaign ... against church and civil
society leaders for offering support and refuge to those displaced by
the violent destruction of their property,'' according to the South African
Those removed were
believed to have been taken to a transit camp known as Helensvale in Umguza,
about 20 miles west of Bulawayo, Phillip said.
Many of those who
initially sought shelter in churches already had moved to Helensvale voluntarily
after clergymen were assured they would continue to have access to them
But on Tuesday, police
interrupted Pastor Albert Chitendo as he was conducting a service at Helensvale
and ordered him to leave, Phillip said. Church leaders have been barred
from the camp since then, he said.
Police have torched
and bulldozed shantytowns, informal markets and other structures deemed
illegal since launching the campaign on May 19. Vendors accused of black-market
dealing also have been arrested or had their goods confiscated. Independent
estimates of the number affected range from 300,000 to over a million.
About 20,000 people
had their homes destroyed in Hatcliffe on the northern outskirts of the
capital in May. Many were given just 30 minutes to pack and forced at
gunpoint to tear down their own houses. Some of those displaced were allowed
to returned to Hatcliffe on Thursday, state media reported.
Local government minister
Ignatius Chombo told Parliament the government would help the displaced
rebuild but warned that any returnees who fail to meet state building
standards would be evicted again.
Many of the displaced
also lost their livelihoods and do not have the means to rebuild, she
has promised $325 million for the reconstruction effort, but economists
question whether the funds are available at a time of economic crisis.
Last month, U.N. Secretary-General
Kofi Annan sent an envoy to assess the humanitarian impact of the campaign.
Anna Tibaijuka, the
Tanzanian head of U.N. Habitat, submitted her report earlier this week.
A copy was also sent to Mugabe for review before it is made public, expected
on Friday or Monday.
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