Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops' Conference: Statement on 'Operation Restore Order'

We, the members of the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishop's Conference, do hereby register our dismay at the current "clean up" operation, dubbed "Operation Restore Order." We are surprised that this operation is being carried out without enough warning and without government offering any alternative accommodation and sources of income to the affected huge number of people. The timing of the operation could not be worse, leaving many people exposed to the elements. The assumption that all people have somewhere to go is false. Some people have been forced back to the cities upon departure for the rural areas.



The informal sector has, over the years, been encouraged by the government. Some of the structures they set up were registered with the municipality and monthly rates paid accordingly.



We find it difficult to understand how the government could unleash such violence on the population. In some cases the Riot Squad moved in on unarmed and peaceful citizens, provoking riots. A grave crime has been committed against poor and helpless people who are already facing many hardships in the country. The excuse of fighting crime through collective and indiscriminate punishment is unacceptable. The end desired does not justify the inhumane means that are being employed. There has been delay, reluctance, and even resistance in some cases to respond to crime by the law-enforcement agents over the years. The current initiative is unwarranted and in most cases unprovoked.



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Some people, including the sick and handicapped, have been beaten in this operation. Some goods have been taken from the flea markets by those carrying out the "clean up" operation and the rest of the goods destroyed.



We warn the perpetrators of this crime that history will hold you individually accountable. People's dignity and human rights are being violated. When dealing with human beings police must exercise caution so that human rights and dignity are respected. Jesus says "Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do unto me." (Matt. 25:40).



We call upon the respective authorities to stop this violence immediately.



Signed:


Mt. Rev. Robert C. Ndlovu of Harare


Mt. Rev. Pius Alec V. Ncube of Bulawayo


Rt. Rev. Michael D. Bhasera of Nasvingo (ZCBCPresident)


Rt. Rev. Alexio Churu Muchabaiwa of Mutare


Rt. Rev. Angel Floro of Gokwe.


Rt. Rev. Patrick M. Mutume, Auxiliary Bishop of Mutare


Very Rev. Fr. Alphonse Mapfumo, Administrator of Gweru


Very Rev. Fr. Matthew Jonga, Administrator of Chinhoyi


Very Rev. Fr. Albert Serrano, SMI, Adminstrator of Hwange

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June 8, 2005
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