Reports



News From Zimbabwe



Feeding Schemes Distribution Map

Download a full quality PDF version of the map here.


'Grace in a dry land'

Watch the dvd here


Walvis Bay To Cairo Expedition

Dr Chris Sworn, one of our Trustees was fortunate to make an exciting expedition from Walvis Bay to the Map of routeMediterranean coast of Egypt and then onto his home in Rutland last autumn. The route followed in Africa is shown here.

He has prepared a fascinating travelogue of this epic journey which you are invited to read. (follow the links below) If this has aroused your interest in the peoples and cultures of the people of Africa and especially those of Zimbabwe (where the average personal income is only £300 per annum), we would invite you to consider making a donation to ZVSF through the Giveall2charity facility above.

Chris would be happy to try to answer any questions you might have about the trip – please feel free to write to him at candj.sworn@gmail.com.

Travelogue



Cathy Buckle's Letters From Zimbabwe

You can visit her website here, or read her most recent letter below:

Zimbabwe waits for the red stain of Coronavirus

Dear Family and Friends,

In the bright light of the moon a pair of owls call to each other across the neighbourhood: Hoo hoo, Whoo hoo. It’s not quite 4.00am but already their dominance of the darkness is being disturbed as Zimbabwe wakes to try and get a head start on the next sixteen hour power cut. Outside the sky is clear, the stars bright and for a moment you linger, eyes closed, letting the balmy pre dawn air of our beautiful but broken Zimbabwe wash over you. Within quarter of an hour the electricity has gone and within an hour the buckets are being readied for the daily water collecting.

Every day we look at the spreading red stain on world maps of the Covid 19 Coronavirus and we see nothing marking Zimbabwe. Every day we wonder what is more frightening: not seeing any cases being recorded or wondering why we aren’t seeing any cases. Even more frightening is how we will cope when Coronavirus gets to Zimbabwe.

So far only one message from the Ministry of Health and Child Care has circulated on mobile phone networks which is the main source of information and communication for 90% of Zimbabweans with no electricity for radio and TV and unaffordable newspapers. The message came on the 3rd of March and read: “Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing preferably with a tissue. Dispose it right away and wash your hands to prevent the spread of the virus.” (sic) The message from the Ministry of Health didn’t even name the Coronavirus; didn’t specify signs and symptoms, didn’t tell you what to do if you think you’ve got the virus; didn’t tell you how or where or even if you could get tested.

Neither the Ministry of Health nor the government of Zimbabwe have addressed the huge crisis we are facing already in just something as simple as washing our hands. We have no water in our taps five days a week; some places have no water in their taps ever. Around wells and boreholes with hand pumps, every day in every town scores of people come with buckets; hundreds throughout the course of a day. Everyone’s hands are touching the same pump handle to get water from the wells and boreholes. How then, government of Zimbabwe, do we stop the spread of Coronavirus?

The next crisis is soap. In the past week the rate of exchange between the US dollar and Zimbabwe dollar has increased from 25 to 40 and it is still rising. Today you need Z$40 to buy US$1. As a result the price of everything (imported and paid for in US$) has increased by 50%. Last week a 200ml bottle of liquid Dettol soap was Z$54; today it is Z$95. A 375g bar of Dettol soap is $30. A 9 pack of toilet rolls is anything from Z$80 to Z$200. An average monthly income for most people is around Z$300 a month; enough for one pack of toilet rolls and two bottles of Dettol soap but no food, rent, transport or anything else. How then, government of Zimbabwe do we wash our hands or sneeze into tissues?

In government buildings and public toilets there is usually no water and there is always no soap. At roadside vendors’ stalls where fruit and vegetables are sold individually there is no water for vendors or customers to wash hands. In buses, minibuses and pirate taxis people are crammed in and there is no way to prevent being contaminated and no other means of travelling. Our hospitals are in a shocking state, without basic equipment or medication and countless numbers of medical staff incapacitated and unable to afford to go to work. How then government of Zimbabwe do we treat people who contract Coronavirus?

A few suspected cases of the virus in Zimbabwe have made it into the press and each has been shrouded in mammoth bungling: premature release of a woman from isolation and then her re-admittance a few days later, a man running away from isolation, going into the community and then headlines saying there was a ‘manhunt’ to find him, a woman dying on the way to hospital, medical staff running away because they had no protective gear. We are told that all of these cases have been negative for Coronavirus but alarm bells are banging.

At election time our government leaders plaster our towns with pictures of themselves but now, when the country needs them most, there are no signs and posters, no flyers under our doors, no clean running water in our taps and soap and toilet paper that we can’t afford to buy. Perhaps we’ll see our government leaders in Zimbabwe’s hospitals for this first time in forty years because like us, if they get Coronavirus they won’t be able to fly off to China or India or South Arica for treatment. Like us they will have to pray that the hospitals have staff, gloves, medicines, respirators, oxygen, water and electricity to run the life saving machines.

Until next time, thanks for reading this Letter From Zimbabwe, now in its 20th year, and my books about life in Zimbabwe, a country in waiting, love cathy.


Feeding Schemes Distribution Map

Download a full quality PDF version of the map here.


Updates Between Reports


Woman`s lament

June 2019

Can you imagine?

You are Zimbabwean woman living with your husband and young children in a small home you have built with your own hands and lived in for over 20 years.

You live on a piece of dry, deserted scrubland called the McDonald’s Bricks site a few miles east of the city of Bulawayo. You have no water, electricity or services but have learned to cope, living contentedly within a poor community.

Though desperately poor, you and your husband have been able to grow vegetables and raise livestock on your little plot to buy the basic rations to feed the family and pay the children’s school fees.

When not at school the children have played contentedly, and safely, close to your home.

Your oldest daughter who is not married is expecting a baby …

When suddenly

The security forces arrive with batons, shouting orders that you are to leave your home at once.

You remonstrate with the senior officer but to no effect. You are ordered to stand aside or take the consequences.

As the women wail and children cower, terrified, bulldozers proceed to demolish your cherished home, and others, before your eyes.

With your family you flee, not knowing where to go or what to do.

Thank God you are befriended by a compassionate Pastor and small team of helpers. You are housed temporarily in a room provided at a nearby carpentry centre.

But now your pregnant daughter is about to give birth. Even with help the only place you can find for the birth is a disused pigsty. It is rented for you and the place cleaned as best possible in the short time available.

There your daughter gives birth to a baby girl. Sadly she is born with a clubfoot and serious neurological problems. Medical help is required but none is provided by the State.

The family, confined now to one room of a rented property, has lost its only source of income. You are totally dependent on the generous compassion of your Christian friends, standing alongside in your desperate plight.

The owner of the rented property refuses to allow you access to his water supply. Without school fees the children have been chased away from school. They have no space to play …

Now read “A Woman’s Lament” written on her behalf by one of those who befriended her, Di Charsley.


Apartheid style evictions in Zimbabwe

11th January 2019

News is breaking of the violent eviction of a whole community living close to Bulawayo. Yesterday (10th January) residents of what is known locally as the McDonald Bricks site, some 20 miles east of the city, found themselves faced with three truck loads of ZRP (Police) and a support unit which had come with orders to destroy their homes forthwith.

Approximately 1,400 families live in this community. Some of these have been living here for a lifetime, though their number has been increased in recent years by others drawn to the site, which has no water or other amenities, by the opportunity to avoid municipal charges they cannot afford. Together they comprise an impoverished community which, without any help from the State, has been forced to fend for itself under the harshest conditions. Their very survival is a mark of their resilience.

Shocked and surprised by the arrival of a large police contingent and the demand they should step aside to allow their cherished homes to be demolished, the residents responded angrily. An ugly scene was developing between, on the one hand, the police and their support unit, brandishing batons and guns, and on the other, the residents, some of whom seized spears and knobkerries to defend their property. At this point, eyewitnesses report, the Commander of the support unit addressed the people. He reminded them of what had happened in Harare following the disputed elections last year, when the army opened fire on unarmed civilians already in flight, killing six and wounding many others. He said the people should remember the army’s reputation and not stand in their way.

Bulldozers then moved in and the brutal destruction of the dwellings followed, accompanied by the wailing of distraught women. Some of the structures were flimsy but others were more substantial. Many had been constructed of quality building material, including the occasional tiled roof here and there. The demolitions proceeded relentlessly, while the residents could only stand by, scarcely believing their eyes, as they watched their only security in life being trashed. Pastor Albert Chatindo, head of Christian Faith Fellowship Church, was one of those who witnessed the unbelievable cruelty. He has ministered to these people for over 20 years and, speaking to me the following day, he admitted he was still in shock.

Not only is this a moral outrage but the legality of it is, to say the least, questionable. The ownership of the land on which the “McDonald Bricks” community lives is disputed. An attempt a few years ago by a would-be developer to establish ownership of the freehold of the site was rejected by the Court on the evidence of a surveyor called in to interpret the only available maps. That decision was appealed to the High Court, but the matter was not then resolved. As far as the residents were concerned, pending any further application to the Courts, they were entitled to remain in occupation of their properties.

The residents were not even permitted to remove their belongings. This the police did in their own fashion, later dumping items seized from the dwellings along the Old Gwanda Road. No compensation was offered to those evicted, nor any assistance with relocation.

The distraught evictees have no reserves of food or cash for transport. A few have been offered temporary lodging by Christian friends but most are now sleeping in the open. Without shelter, food or the most basic facilities, all – and particularly little children and the frail elderly – must be considered at great risk.

The exercise of such brute power in the name of the State against poor, defenceless citizens must surely invite comparison with some of the worst atrocities committed by the Apartheid regime against some of the long-settled communities in South Africa that were perceived to stand in the way of that regime’s racist ideology.

Graham Shaw

And the aftermath...

25th January 2019

Report from Pastor Albert Chatindo to his prayer partner team

We greet you all in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ!

On Wednesday, 9 January I received an SOS call from the community at MacDonald Bricks saying that the Messenger of Court had dropped an eviction notice and that they were going to start destroying homes the next day. The next day the Messenger of Court with the police force started removing property and destroying homes. Immediately I went to witness what was happening. I spoke to the Messenger of Court and asked for a copy of the eviction notice but he said he had handed out all he had. I asked what had happened, as there was still a high court appeal from 2015 when the first eviction notice was challenged. His response was harsh: This time it is non-negotiable, there is nothing you can do like you did last time Chatindo.

By early morning there were two bulldozers there and they were already knocking down homes and fences and pens. The community gathered and were very upset. They were shouting at the police and the Messenger of Court and three trucks of armed Support Unit was called in. At that point I was very angry. I asked the headman to go to a lawyer to see what could be done but the speed at which these guys were acting did not give a chance to halt it through the courts. I felt helpless. This time the destruction was total; they made sure there was nothing left. One woman was so distraught she rushed to her house as it was being pulled down so the bricks would fall on her, but the police pulled her away.

In 2015 when the similar eviction took place it was stopped when it was taken to court and the judge ruled in favour of the community. It was established that McDonald Bricks did not own this property. However, McDonald Bricks appealed and there is still a high court ruling to come. The same Messenger of Court was fined for cruelty to animals by the SPCA after the 2015 thwarted eviction, when 2000 chickens and some puppies were put in sacks and suffocated as a result. This time he made sure the SPCA was there to monitor the process.

Their movable property was thrown into hired trucks (by McDonald’s?) and left on the side of the main Johannesburg road. At this time the headman came back with news that there was no hope of stopping the eviction. He was told that the local Zanu (PF) politicians had instructed the court not to carry out these evictions until after the elections. During campaigning Obert Mpofu and his accomplices had promised these people that no one would be evicted but would be given 99-year leases.

On Friday, 11 January some funds had come in as a result of appeals and we were able to start moving vulnerable people to temporary shelters. By this time families had been out in the open for over 24 hours and had not eaten. Some women were screaming and spinning around in circles in despair, to the verge of insanity. Three of them have disappeared and we are still looking for them. On Saturday I was able to buy bread and distribute it and then donations of maize meal, e’Pap and vegetables came thorough.

On Sunday a farmer I know was driving past and saw all the people on the side of the road. He offered his truck and driver so we could move more people. More donations came and there was enough US dollars to buy fuel.

On Monday the stay-away started and I was relocating two families to Mazwi across town. From Mpopoma the police were there with dogs and horses, but they let us go through and controlled the crowd. Getting into Pumula there was a larger, thicker, crowd chanting. So I stopped the truck and walked towards to the crowd. The police there said I shouldn’t go through and then escorted me back to the truck. They were in fact withdrawing and calling for reinforcements. I was shown another route. But we came to another road block with burning tyres and they threatened to burn the truck, and us if we did not come out of the truck. I said to them, ‘Guys you have lost direction, are you fighting against us or against government?’ I explained that I was helping old women across town because their homes had been destroyed by the government. I said, ‘Are we together, or are you against us?’ Then the crowd leader said, ‘This man is talking sense,’ and we were allowed to go through. During this time I was sending prayer requests to my friends. There, if you are not courageous you die. We managed to get to our destination and eventually got back to town using dirt roads.

It’s two weeks now since this all started and the Messenger of Court has been hunting down those who are still hiding in the bush and threatening them with arrest. As of today there are still 28 families on the side of the road.

For a full week I was not able to deal with the situation, as the way the eviction was carried out was ruthless. I was crying out, ‘Why Lord?’ My vehicle was broken down and I did not know what to do. I got sick. Also I had no helpers. And then there were church members from the high density suburbs calling me, who had been beaten up in the stay away or could not get food. But the prayers from local churches and Christians in UK and Australia restored me and the Lord strengthened me. We have seen his mighty hand at work in amazing ways.

We don’t know what follows next. Outwardly there is calm but inwardly there is pain, there is strife, there is a worry for the future. People are saying next time there will be more lawlessness and there is a fear that we could become another Rwanda. We really pray that the Almighty will intervene and enable us to find a peaceful solution.

This report was filed just prior to the visit of ZVSF’s Chair of Trustees to Zimbabwe

Journeying in hope

12th September 2018

In a few days I am flying to Zimbabwe on a three week working visit. I know that the mood in the country is sombre, following another stolen election and display of brutal violence on the streets by the army. But, emphatically, I do not share in the prevailing sense of pain-filled resignation about the prospects for the nation. The reason for my “hope against all the odds” is that I know our awesome, liberating God is still at work among his people.

In my preparations for the visit this sense of God’s redeeming presence has been deepened.

I have known God’s blessing in the amazing support and encouragement received by Christian friends here in the UK, who are sending me on my way with warm greetings, generous gifts and, I know, fervent prayers to and for their sisters and brothers in Zimbabwe and the ministry of ZVSF among them.

I already feel the warmest of welcomes from dear friends in Bulawayo who are facilitating the visit, helping with practical arrangements and making themselves available to meet and walk with me for a while.

And I know I will be returning with stories and powerful testimonies from that faith community to inspire and bless the saints here.

So yes, I have a profound sense that “this is the Lord’s doing and it is marvelous in our eyes”. It is at the same time humbling and exhilarating to walk in his way, and that explains why I have made an otherwise rather odd choice of images to go with this posting.

I have chosen an image from inside the Chapel at Cyrene Mission, just south of Bulawayo. It shows a section of the marvellous artwork of a former generation of students who, inspired by a Christian priest and artist, painted something of their faith on the walls of the Chapel. It speaks to me powerfully of the creativity and vast untapped potential of the people of Zimbabwe. Our liberating God is surely working with the saints to release this potential – and what a joy it is to see it!

Graham Shaw

This report was filed immediately following the return from Zimbabwe of the Chair of Trustees

My findings in Zimbabwe

October 2018

I am just back from a three week visit to Zimbabwe during which I had the opportunity to travel to many sites in and around Bulawayo where our relief feeding programme is being carried out by our marvellous team of volunteers.

I was able to observe first-hand the conditions in which people are now forced to eke out a miserable existence – from the so-called squatter camps at Killarney and MacDonald Bricks to the shack dwellers at Ngozi Mine surrounded by huge piles of the City’s refuse from which they collect bags of plastics for re-cycling, and on to the relative comfort of the absolutely basic (no water or electricity) small dwellings constructed at Mazwi with U.N. funds for some of the victims of earlier State purges of the poor.

What a scandal it is that in nearly four decades since Independence the ZANU PF government has done precisely nothing for these, the poorest of the poor – and countless others like them across the land. Their only interventions have been to send in the military from time to time to destroy their dwellings and meagre possessions and chase them away.

So yes, I, who have seen a good bit of this before, was both shocked and angered. Yet alongside these strong emotions I was also deeply moved by the heroic efforts of those who have always been there for the victims. Encouraged and inspired by their indomitable courage and perseverance in feeding the hungry and ministering to the deepest needs of communities driven close to despair. And though the signs of extreme social stress are all too clearly visible so too are the signs of a new hope borne out of this faithful, persevering ministry. In short I was humbled and felt incredibly privileged to be linked to this life-changing ministry through ZVSF. Compared to the sacrifice required of the front-line workers ours is the easy part in supporting that work prayerfully and with our gifts. Yet how blessed we are to have even a minor part in this partnership of grace.

Long before I arrived in Zimbabwe any remaining hopes that the new President would bring meaningful change had disappeared. In the week or so before I departed I watched the fuel queues grow. I saw what can only be called the “virtual currency” on which most Zimbabweans have been forced to rely plunge in value and the price of basic foods spiral upwards. Shelves in the supermarkets were fast emptying and many store owners closing their doors, ostensibly for “stock-taking”, but more likely to re-price their goods. A re-run of the catastrophic crash of the economy of 2008/9, but this time happening more rapidly and with consequences few dare to predict.

The people of Zimbabwe, already living on the edge, are facing yet another crisis. I know the faithful servants of God whom I met on the ground – and many like them – will not lose their nerve or fail those who depend upon them so heavily. Pray God we will not fail them either, or our partners in that front line work of the Kingdom.

In His Service,

Graham Shaw




A word of thanks from St Peter's Prmary School



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