Prayers Can Change Situations.
When l heard about the conflict in Sudan through Frontline Fellowship (www.frontline.org.za) l started to pray about it. Now there is peace in Sudan. l believe earnest prayers can change the situation in Zimbabwe and God’s Justice will reign forth.
If you follow the news you will be aware that over 250,000 people have been forcibly evicted from their homes as part of an ongoing government policy. It is winter in Zimbabwe, and evicted men, women, children, the elderly and the infirm are camped out in the cold, with no access to sanitation or health facilities, and surrounded by the few belongings that they have managed to salvage. Scripture consistently illustrates that God is a God of justice who has a special concern for the vulnerable. The Bible also repeatedly enjoins us to care for the poor and needy and to defend the rights of widows and orphans.
This Sunday please pray for Zimbabwe:
Pray for the peace of Zimbabwe and for a swift resolution to the nation’s present trauma
Pray for justice for those who have been arbitrarily deprived of their homes and that they will find a place of refuge and fresh opportunities for employment. Pray also for medical assistance to reach those who need it, especially those living with HIV
Pray that God would protect Roman Catholic Archbishop of Bulawayo Pius Ncube and others who are fulfilling the biblical mandate to speak up for the oppressed
Proverbs 21:1 says that ‘the king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord; He directs it like a watercourse wherever He pleases.’ Pray that God would raise up people within the ruling party that will steer the government towards righteous policies
Ezekiel 18:23 & 32 tell us that God’s preference is for people to repent of their wrong doing. Pray for repentance and a change of heart on the part of Robert Mugabe and of those within his government and party who condone and conduct violent and unjust policies
Finally, pray that the international community, and particularly members of the African Union (AU), would exert effective pressure to ensure the Zimbabwean government fulfils its obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law
The government of President Robert Mugabe has become increasingly repressive. Its chaotic land seizures transformed a former bread basket of southern Africa into a country where millions are dependent on food aid. A recent report by the United Nations Famine Early Warning System Network warned that most rural homes have run out of food and that around five million people could starve if the government does not allow international donors to bring in aid. The country is also experiencing crippling shortages of fuel, maize, bread and other basic commodities.
The Mugabe government recently claimed another unconvincing electoral victory following a campaign characterised by fraud and intimidation. Pius Ncube, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Bulawayo and a longstanding critic of the regime, has stated that the country has around two million ‘ghost voters’ on its electoral roll. The Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) ruling party also stands accused of manipulating food rations to ensure voter support and of adopting strong arm tactics to further guarantee that this support was forthcoming. According to a Zimbabwean journalist who is currently underground, the notorious ruling party youth militia known as ‘the green bombers’ so terrorised opposition supporters in one area that they fled their homes prior to the election.
The Zimbabwe Council of churches (ZCC) has said the nation is ravaged by ‘violence, rape, intimidation, harassment and various forms of torture’. The forces of law and order have been co-opted into an increasingly repressive system, leading one observer to characterise Zimbabwe as a nation run by gangsters. In a recent incident police are reported to have attacked around 400 women who had gathered in Harare on the eve of the election for an all-night prayer service for peace. Thirty-eight women were severely injured and reportedly required hospitalisation. The police also arrested 260 women, some of whom were carrying babies. All were released the following day after being forced to pay ‘admission of guilt’ fines.
For the past four weeks the government of Zimbabwe has been conducting ‘Operation Murambatsvina’ (Drive out Rubbish), a campaign of social engineering reminiscent of the ‘Year Zero’ policy of Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge. With Zimbabwe’s new Chinese-manufactured warplanes occasionally circling overhead, armed police have swept through shanty towns in Harare, Victoria Falls and other cities forcibly evicting over 250,000 informal settlers and other residents. They have bulldozed homes, informal businesses and flea markets, depriving people of shelter and livelihoods in an attempt to force them to move to rural areas. In some cases they have forced people to demolish their own homes, or charged them a fee to do it.
During two separate incidents, an 18 month-old baby and a two year old child are reported to have died from injuries sustained after the walls of their homes fell on them during evictions. According to reports, police have even demolished squatter camps established by veterans of the Liberation Struggle, including two named after war heroes Joshua Nkhomo and Josiah Tongogara. In a particularly poignant incident, police demolished a clinic in the Harare suburb of Hatcliffe where Zimbabwean Catholic nuns had run a crèche for AIDS orphans and had distributed ant-retroviral drugs to HIV positive women for the past ten years.
Residents of these areas are devastated. Some have found refuge in churches, many now live on the streets, and others have been forced to return to rural areas, just as the government intended. The government has also dumped thousands of people in makeshift camps outside the cities where they are left to fend for themselves without clean water, food, sanitation or, in most cases, shelter. Commenting on her predicament, former resident of the demolished Mbare area Victoria Muchenje said:
“We are suffering, we have nowhere to go. Our children are not going to school; we are sleeping in the road“.
Another former resident, Wellington Murewa, wept in despair:
“I have lost the only source of income I had. Since 1981 the only place I have known as a home with my family was a backyard shack, and I cannot start again”.
Elsewhere, sculptress Beatrice Maruda, a 62 year-old grandmother and the sole bread winner of her family, also sobbed as she narrated how the forcible closure of her business would mean the family would have to return to their arid home area without a source of income:
“There is now no hope for a better life for my family”.
The government has defended its policy by stating that it wants to combat urban crime and will eventually regenerate cleared areas. However, there is a general feeling that the move is aimed at punishing the urban poor and changing the voter profile of towns and cities, since the inhabitants of such areas consistently vote against the Mugabe government in large numbers during elections. Likewise, although the government’s recent decision to end larger-scale urban crop growing is to some extent justifiable from an environmental point of view, this too is seen as yet another move to tighten control of urban society by controlling supplies of food in such areas.
In response to the crisis UN Secretary General Kofi Annan appointed the UN Programme on Sustainable Housing, Anna Kajumulo Tibaijuka to represent him on a fact-finding visit to the country. However, despite widespread condemnations of Operation Murambatsvina in Western Europe, no effective pressure has been exerted on Zimbabwe to end the policy. So far no African government has condemned the campaign. Instead, spokesman for the African Union (AU) Desmond Orjiako told the BBC’s Network Africa programme:
“If the government that [Zimbabwe] elected say they are restoring order by their actions, I don’t think it would be proper for us to go interfering in their internal legislation”.
In the words a South Africa-based journalist, Operation Murambatsvina ‘has degenerated into a man-made disaster, spawning a humanitarian crisis.’ Popular resentment of the Mugabe regime has increased markedly due to the callous nature of these evictions. At the same time there are reports of the beginnings of a rift within the ruling party’s Politburo. As a Catholic priest told the news agency Associated Press (AP):
“It is a watershed; it is the beginning of the end,
But the end will be terrible”.
Published by Foundation of Reason & Justice (http://forjustice.atspace.org) Permission to reproduce is granted provided due acknowledgement is given.