Letter to H.E. Honourable Patrick Chinamasa, Minister of Justice, Legal Aid and
Parliamentary Affairs of Zimbabwe, 24 June, 2005

Your Excellency,

I am writing to you with regard to the recent forced evictions in Zimbabwe.
The World Council of Churches (WCC), an organization that has a long history
of supporting the people of Zimbabwe in their struggle for justice and freedom,
condemns the mass forced evictions that have left hundreds of thousands of
Zimbabweans homeless and made dispossessed Zimbabweans even more vulnerable.
WCC calls on the government of Zimbabwe to immediately stop the evictions.
The rapid, ruthless and arbitrary manner in which Operation Murambatsvina
is being conducted has left over 200,000 homeless.

This operation is being carried out during the winter months and at a time
when the rural areas are particularly unable to absorb those expelled from the
urban areas because of the effects of drought. The government of Zimbabwe has
embarked on this campaign while Zimbabwe is suffering from high unemployment,
increasing poverty, acute food shortages and high levels of HIV and AIDS.

It is difficult to ascertain the political rationale of why the government has
embarked on this inhuman campaign. To carry out such acts of cruelty with
impunity against its own people shows clearly that the government is losing the
moral and ethical ground for leadership, healing and reconciliation.

What is more, the Government is not allowing churches and civil society groups
to assist the evacuees. There is a moral, ethical and theological imperative to assist
those who are suffering. The gospel asks us to assist the poor, the vulnerable, the
hungry, the homeless, and the sick. "Truly, I say to you, as you did it to the least
of these, …you did it to me." (Matthew 25:40) The church has a commitment to
provide support and assistance.

The WCC affirms and supports the messages of the Zimbabwe Council of
Churches (ZCC) and the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops' Conference (ZCBC), which
underscore the dire nature of the situation. As the ZCC statement of 20 June
notes, "The clean-up operation has resulted in untold suffering where families are
left in the open air in this cold wintry weather. The misery that this operation
has brought upon the affected people is unbearable. We are witnessing the total
loss of livelihood for whole families for some people who were operating within
the parameters of the by-laws."

The ZCBC Pastoral Letter of 17 June points out that: "Any claim to justify
this operation in view of a desired orderly end becomes totally groundless in view
of the cruel and inhumane means that have been used. People have a right to shelter
and that has been deliberately destroyed in this operation without much warning.
While we all desire orderliness, alternative accommodation and sources of
income should have been identified and provided before the demolitions and stoppage
of informal trading. We condemn the gross injustice done to the poor."

This is an operation of segregation against the working poor and denial of the
suffering Zimbabweans to make a living in an ailing economy. The church is not
only called to care for the poor, but also to question the structures of injustice
that lead to poverty. The churches in solidarity with one another are called to seek
God among the poor, the vulnerable, the hungry, the homeless and the oppressed
people of Zimbabwe.

The WCC hereby calls on the Government of Zimbabwe to suspend with immediate
effect Operation Murambatsvina and urgently to address the pressing needs -
shelter, food, health, etc. - of the evacuees. Churches and relief organizations
should also be given unrestricted access to the displaced persons.

The Government should initiate dialogue with the opposition, churches and
civil society groups and begin the process of addressing the real needs of suffering
Zimbabweans. Zimbabwe is a divided society, and in this time of great upheaval
and suffering it is crucial that peaceful ways be found to reconcile, rebuild and
heal Zimbabwe.

The Government of Zimbabwe and the ZANU-PF need to exercise the newlyachieved
parliamentary majority in a way that can move the country from division
towards healing. This means reaching out to the opposition and dismantling
the restrictions on fundamental freedoms contained in such laws as the Public
Order and Security Act, the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act
and the Private Voluntary Organization Act. It should also withdraw the NGO
bill from parliamentary consideration in its current form.

The WCC has a long history of accompanying the people of Zimbabwe in their
struggle for independence and freedom, and will continue to stand in solidarity
with the people and churches in Zimbabwe.

Yours sincerely,

Peter Weiderud
Commission of the Churches
on International Affairs