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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 …
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.
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!
This report was filed immediately following the return from Zimbabwe of the Chair of Trustees
My findings in ZimbabweOctober 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,
- NEWS ALERT. Famine Early Warning Systems Network    *LATEST
- 2017 November - Mugabe's Resignation
- 2016 December - Zimbabwe In Meltdown
A word of thanks from St Peter's Prmary School
Please use this link to make a donation through giveall2charity.
News From Zimbabwe
- Zimbabwe food security outlook update - September 2018
- Zimbabwe: Hope deferred - Hope abandoned?
- Pastoral Letter 21-01-11
- The Archbishop of Canterbury's sermon to the Anglicans in Zimbabwe 9-10-11
- Famine Early Warning Systems Network: Zimbabwe: Food Security Outlook January 2014
- ZIMBABWE ALERT – RAID ON THE POOR - August 2015
- Statement by Zimbabwe Heads of Christian Denominations
- UN Food Security Brief on Zimbabwe: January 2016
- Methodist Church in Zimbabwe condemns police brutality
- Famine Early Warning Systems Network Report - October 2016
'Grace in a dry land'
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Part 1 - Walvis Bay to Arusha (Tanzania)
- Part 2 - Nairobi (Kenya) to Cairo
- Addendum – Iskenderun to Preston (Rutland)
Cathy Buckle's Letters From Zimbabwe
You can visit her website here, or read her most recent letter below:
Marching towards starvation and baton sticks
Dear Family and FriendsI am writing this letter to you from Zimbabwe on Friday 16th August 2019 with a very heavy heart. Despite a year of rhetoric from President Mnangagwa that this was a ‘New Dispensation’ and that we were ‘Open For Business’, events of today showed us, and the world, that absolutely nothing has changed.
Yet again the streets of Harare were filled with unarmed, running, screaming people chased by riot police using their baton sticks (truncheons) again and again. People who fell down were repeatedly beaten on the tarmac, their images filmed for the world to see. People sitting on the streets were beaten. The MDC described it as “extreme brutality against citizens.” There were no cars being stoned, no tyres being burned, no shops being looted and no signs of any violence, making the reaction of the police simply incomprehensible.
In the past week eighteen civic and political activists and MDC officials have been abducted and tortured ahead of the planned march. Yet again we have heard stories we prayed we would never ever have to hear again after the end of Robert Mugabe: accounts of armed men coming at night, people abducted, taken in unmarked vehicles, beaten on the soles of their feet, dumped on roadsides.
My heart was breaking watching the scenes from Harare today because it was on these exact streets that I marched with hundreds of thousands of others in November 2017, wearing my flag with such pride, Zimbabwean to the depths of my soul, caught up in a tidal wave of euphoria and joy at the end days of Robert Mugabe. How can Zimbabwe have gone so far backwards again and so fast?
For a moment, if we had dared to hope that police, who have been suffering the same hell as the rest of us, would not raise their baton sticks against unarmed citizens marching in Harare today, we had not been paying attention. Speaking at Monday’s Heroes Day events, President Mnangagwa said: “Government is finalizing special remuneration packages for the men and women in uniform, the military salary concept, and other incentives to cushion them from hardships that have affected the country’s workers.”
For the past 54 weeks (since the 30th July 2018 elections) we have been living in a state of continual, daily deterioration marked by anxiety, fear, and chronic economic hardship. We have seen all our US dollars in banks, savings accounts and pension funds unashamedly converted by our government into Zimbabwe Bond dollars which have lost 98% of their real US dollar value in the past 20 weeks. We can’t afford medical treatments and medicines anymore; fuel prices have gone up seven times this year and food prices quadrupled. As a nation we have been decimated by our own government: employers, employees, self employed and unemployed citizens, civil servants, pensioners: none have been spared.
This week the World Food Programme said 2.3 million people in rural Zimbabwe need emergency food aid now and this number will increase to 5.5 million in the coming weeks. The government estimates another 2.2 million people in urban areas also require food aid, bringing the total to 7.7 million, over half of our total population. The WFP said "We are talking about people who truly are marching towards starvation if we are not here to help them."
Today in Harare, people already marching towards starvation, also marched towards baton sticks; we feel their pain and our hearts are with them. Until next time, thanks for reading this letter from Zimbabwe, now in its 19th year, and my books about life in our beautiful Zimbabwe,
Feeding Schemes Distribution Map
Download a full quality PDF version of the map here.