ZIMBABWE (Source withheld) - seems a rubbish
dump. Piles of rubbish are burning, and a thick cloud of acrid
smoke hangs over the area. But this is where people from “Joburg
lines” in Mbare live, camping out during these cold nights.
Among them is a terminally ill woman. She put up a few bits of
plastic and cardboard to protect herself from the cold wind. She
used to live with her two small children at her sister’s
place until the little cottage she was allowed to use was demolished.
Her sister’s husband, unlike many other homeowners who have
received displaced relatives in their houses, refuses to let her
or her children stay in his house so his wife could look after
Three little children, a boy of eight and his two younger sisters
of five and three, were brought by concerned members of our parish
to the church. They had been staying in the open at a very dirty
place in the middle of puddles of sewage. Their mother abandoned
them for reasons we don’t quite know, the father, a Mozambiquan,
was picked up by police and taken to the holding camp at Caledonia
Farm. He escaped and came back, only to be taken forcibly to that
place a second time.
Mr and Mrs Chibango are both unemployed, but they managed to earn
a living by being self-employed traders and caterers. All this
has been destroyed. They ask for food relief to feed their family
We are trying to feed the displaced people staying in the open
and give them blankets and plastic sheeting. Are we to feed all
the others rendered destitute as well? How long can we do this?
What is going to be the outcome?
What has to happen for the African Union and the rest of the world
to sit up and take notice of how a government is torturing the
This week we start to transport people to their rural homes. Only
those who really want to go. Some people say we should not do
this, we were doing the dirty work for government. I think we
have to do what the people ask us to do. Those who have no longer
strong roots at home should not attempt to go. They might be turned
back, different arms of government playing football with them.
Many others, aliens and children of aliens, have no rural home
anyway. They have been written off as no longer deserving a place
in this country. They are told to go away, vanish into nothingness.
Discarded people, no longer wanted. Do they now need government
permission to exist, to breathe the air God gives for free to
all humans, to move and go about their business? Is this government
almighty and its people powerless?
Those who do go home may at least find shelter with parents or
brothers and sisters. But how will they make a living? The rural
areas are drought-stricken and without sufficient food. Many children
will have their education interrupted.
I was chatting to a mechanic on a repair job at my place, apparently
quite a smart young man. “Oh, he is being misled by bad
advisers surrounding him,” he said. Propaganda is having
its effect on the people. How can intelligent people be content
with such stupidities? I think the old women who whisper something
about the high and mighty being posessed by an evil spirit are
closer to the truth.
The following letter appeared in the Independent (24 June) and
Standard (26 June) weekly papers, Harare, Zimbabwe:
APPEAL FOR MERCY
Many people in Mbare have lost their livelihood. Their home industries
have been destroyed, the lodgers removed. On top of all this,
home owners are now receiving massive back-dated bills charging
them for water, rates, refuse collection, sewerage, and millions
Many will not be able to pay these bills. Why are they being penalised?
On what legal grounds?
The city administration must not put unbearable burdens on people
who have been hit very hard already by the destruction of housing.
Many lodgers left homeless are now sleeping outside in the cold,
including pregnant women, mothers with small children and extremely
sick people. They have nowhere to go.
Shelter is a basic human right. “Every human being is entitled
to respect for his/her life and to safety” (The African
Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, article 4).
Officials must refrain from harsh and inhuman treatment of defenceless
It cannot be in the interest of responsible government to drive
its citizens into unemployment, homelessness and general destitution.
“Judgment will be without mercy to anyone who has shown
no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2: 13).