Bishops denounce Zimbabwe "clean-up"

Heads of the Roman Catholic Church in Zimbabwe issued a pastoral letter yesterday, saying that President Robert Mugabe's clampdown on street traders and shack dwellers "cries out for vengeance to God".

News24 reports the government's Operation Murambatsvina, or "Drive Out Trash", has left more than 1.5 million people without homes and livelihoods, according to UN experts. Police also have arrested more than 30 000 vendors, accusing them of dealing in black market goods and attempting to sabotage Zimbabwe's failing economy.

"A whole nation has suffered because of recent and ongoing actions," said the nine archbishops, bishops and administrators of dioceses, in a formal message to an estimated one million communicants, pinned on hundreds of church notice boards throughout the country.

"Now, almost four weeks after the event, countless number of men, women with babies, children of school age, the old and the sick, continue to sleep in the open air at winter temperatures near to freezing," they said, calling for special prayers next Sunday, June 26, for victims of the blitz.

"Any claim to justify this operation ... becomes totally groundless in view of the cruel and inhumane means that have been used.

"We condemn the gross injustice done to the poor," they said.

The churchmen, led by Archbishop Robert Ndlovu of Harare and Archbishop Pius Ncube of Bulawayo, attacked self-styled Christians in the government who "lead a double way of life, one for Sunday services in church and another for public tasks, be they political, economic, social or any other kind".

The Catholic leaders said "innate human dignity ... given to us by the Creator Himself ... was gravely violated by the ruthless manner in which the operation was conducted" and "cries out for vengeance to God."

It was the toughest statement yet by church leaders against the government crackdown. With 80% unemployment, most Zimbabweans survive in the "informal sector" and now face destitution.

Bishops denounce clean-up (News24 19/6/05)

Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops' Conference | Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace

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20 Jun 2005