Clergymen in Bulawayo said that riot police raided three churches in the southern Zimbabwean city and forcibly removed about 500 people to a transit camp under cover of darkness from Wednesday to Thursday. Families who lost their homes since May in the demolition campaign called Operation Murambatsvina, or “Drive Out Rubbish,” were taken by trucks to nearby Helensvale Farm transit camp.
Netsai Mlilo reported from Bulawayo for VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe.
Following the police raids, Bulawayo church leaders assembled to review events and decide on a course of action in the face of the government opertion. Church officials in Zimbabwe’s second-largest city had for some weeks been fending off moves by authorities to force homeless families and individuals accommodated by the churches into the Helensvale Farm holding facility. Many of those staying in and around the churches had no family to turn to or were of foreign origin.
Pastor Lucky Moyo’s Agape Church in the Nketa district was the first raided by police. He gave Patience Rusere of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe this report.
Much the opposite was happening in the Harare area, where authories moved displaced residents of the capital’s Hatcliffe extension suburb out of Caledonia Farm transit camp back to the rubble of their homes in the township.
Opposition member of parliament for Harare North Trudy Stevenson said that the move flew in the face of a recent statement by Housing Minister Ignatius Chombo to the effect that the displaced would not be allowed to move back to Hatcliffe as the government was identifying new areas for housing developments.
Mrs. Stevenson said some former Hatcliffe Extension residents would probably lose their housing lots because they returned to their villages of origin or their countries of origin.
Reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe spoke with a former Hatcliffe Extension resident who returned to the battered suburb.