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Zimbabwe’s Homeless Mark Time in Transit Camps

Though the government has pledged to spend Z$3 billion building homes and business premises to replace those it has demolished, thousands of Zimbabweans face the prospect of living for months - perhaps even years - in transit camps like Caledonia Farm outside Harare.

Correspondent David Mutomba of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe reports that for many at Caledonia Farm, it seems their lives have come to a standstill.

Bulawayo churches offered emergency shelter to many of the families who lost their homes in Operation Murambatsvina. But now officials are directing them to Helensvale Farm to the north in Umguzi where a transit camp opened last week.

Bulawayo churches continued to offer assistance at Helensvale, but were dealt a setback late Tuesday when Police ordered Bulawayo Pastor Albert Chatindo of the Christian Faith Fellowship out of the Helensvale camp. It was not immediately clear whether the official policy on camp access had changed. Church leaders were to meet on Thursday with social welfare officials to clarify matters.

Correspondent Netsai Mlilo in Bulawayo eported for VOA’s Studio 7 for ZImbabwe on tightening access to Helensvale and conditions within the transit camp.

Religious leaders in Bulawayo had been haggling with authorities for weeks over the fate of displaced people who sought shelter in their churches, fending off two attempts to transfer people to the camp before it was ready to accommodate them. Authorities moved three truckloads of people from Bulawayo churches to Helensvale on Wednesday, but about 1,000 remained in church facilities, said Pastor Patson Nheta, chairman of a Bulawayo church relief organization.

At Caledonia Farm near Harare, aid workers who asked not to be identified said authorities are hindering delivery of assistance. Officials insisted that aid be given to the general population rather than targeted at more vulnerable groups such as children, the aged and the sick as relief workers believed was advisable.

One NGO source said humanitarian activities were restricted to the distribution of food, blankets and tents, and the provision of medical care from mobile clinics. But camp officials prohibited the installation of permanent fixtures like wells.

Reporter Patience Rusere of VOA’s Studio 7 for ZImbabwe spoke with Pastor Lucky Moyo, spokesman for Bulawayo’s Broad Alliance of churches, about the situation at the Helensvale Farm transit camp as of late Wednesday.

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