THE NGO NETWORK ALLIANCE PROJECT - an online community for Zimbabwean activists  
 View archive by sector


Back to Index

This article participates on the following special index pages:

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

  • Four clergymen detained in Zimbabwe raid
    Michael Hartnack, Associated Press (AP)
    July 21, 2005,1280,-5157720,00.html

    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 said Thursday.

    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 Press Association.

    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 there.

    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 added.

    Mugabe's government 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.

    Please credit if you make use of material from this website. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License unless stated otherwise.