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South African Church Council Accuses Harare of Obstructing Aid

The South African Council of Churches says the government of Zimbabwe has turned its effort to send humanitarian aid to the victims of Harare’s slum-clearance program into a political football by systematically obstructing relief shipments.

The church group since August 1 has been trying to deliver 37 metric tons of food and 6,000 blankets to thousands driven from their homes and displaced in the government’s May-July campaign.

More than three weeks later, two trucks full of food remain in South Africa, and the government of Zimbabwe has impounded a truck loaded with blankets, demanding that the South African organization pay exorbitant customs duties.

Adding insult to injury, Zimbabwe Security Minister Didymus Mutasa, who is in charge of food security, has questioned the church group’s sincerity, saying South African clerics who visited Zimbabwe last month to assess the crisis were British pawns.

Reverend Ron Steele, a spokesman for the South African Council of Churches, told reporter Ndimyake Mwakalyelye of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the SACC is committed to following through on its aid pledge.

Meanwhile, victims of Operation Murambatsvina continue to wait for blankets provided by the SACC relief, called Operation Hope.

Zimbabwe Revenue Authority officials have barred Christian Care – an organization whose relief activities go back to the liberation struggle of the 1970s – from distributing the 6,000 blankets, though donated goods customarily are admitted to the country without the imposition of customs duties.

Studio 7 reporter Jonga Kandemiiri spoke with Christian Care Deputy Director Nyika Musiyazviriyo about the red tape that’s leaving Zimbabweans out in the cold.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...