Church Council Sees Impact of Massive Forced Evictions in Zimbabwe

A delegation from the South African Council of Churches (SACC) visited Zimbabwe on Sunday and Monday to witness the impact of forced evictions on urban residents.

For the last three months, the Zimbabwe government has forcibly removed and razed the homes of at least 200,000 people near the capital of Harare, according to the United Nations.

The interdenominational representatives from the SACC were there to hear from the people affected and meet politicians regarding the matter "if possible," according to BBC News.

The co-leader of the group, Anglican Arcbishop Njongonkulu Ndungana said that meeting politicians was not the top priority.

"...our primary objective is to meet with the people, listen to their stories, pray with them and indicate our love and care and support," he told South African Broadcasting Corporation radio.

The SACC delegation also met with the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC) to tour a camp in Caledonia that was temporarily housing those made homeless by the government's "urban renewal" plans which it has labeled, "Operation Drive Out Trash."

Also along for the trip was Eddie Makue, Deputy General Secretary of the SACC.

"What we are observing [in Zimbabwe] is very close to the statement released by the World council of churches," said Makue. On June 24, the WCC said the forced eviction of residents in the informal housing was being done in a "rapid, ruthless and arbitrary manner."

Makue also thanked groups offering assistance to the displaced. He applauded the efforts of UNICEF (UN Children's Fund] and Christian Care, a service branch of the Zimbabwe Council of Churches.

The government has said that the operation is an effort clean up urban areas and deal with crime. However, Methodist Bishop Ivan Abrahams, the SACC Chair, viewed the matter differently.

"There has bee a kind of parallel with what we have seen hapening in South Africa with forced removals, the apartheid forced removals, that we have seen where people are left destitute, without shelter and livelihoods," he said, according to SW Radio Africa

The delegation hoped to meet with both the ruling party and opposition leaders before returning to Johannesburg and making recommendations to give to South African President Thabo Mbeki. They are scheduled make an announcement today regarding their findings today at a press conference.

The United States and Great Britain have condemned the actions by the Zimbabwe government. The African Union, comprised of members from each nation in the continent, has not issued a statement, although it is in the process of investigating, according to IRIN.