Many thanks to the parish priest in Zimbabwe who sent us this powerful report. We are not publishing his name in order to protect him and his parish. Aaron is a mentally handicapped man of about 35 years of age. He used to buy and sell fish for a living. I am told that he used to be quite normal and that he attended the University of Zimbabwe. Aaron is a very gentle and soft spoken person who lived by himself in the New Stands section of Hatcliffe extension. He attended church regularly and punctually. After making my acquaintance with him I invited him to serve at the Alter. This did not go down very well, initially, with other parishioners, who regarded him as a madman. But I saw something good and beautiful behind his eccentricity. After a while, Aaron became well accepted and liked as an alter server by all in the community. When I visited him for the first time at his housing stand, I was deeply touched by his situation. He lived in a very primitive grass shelter that had bits of plastic material without a proper door. His few belongings were strewn on the rough floor of the dwelling. I felt that it was not proper for a human being to live in such conditions, even though I knew that Aaron did not mind. I set my mind to do something for him without delay. After talking to a couple of friends about Aaron's situation, one of my parishioners offered me a wooden cabin. I wasted no time and got to work dismantling the cabin and hiring a truck to carry it to Aaron's stand. My enthusiasm attracted that of his neighbours and about ten men came and assisted to put the house up. One offered the bricks for the foundation, another the cement, and yet another brought building tools and a wheelbarrow. I remember the joy that captivated all of us as we stood outside Aaron's new house. At last this man who had lived in destitution for so many years had found a home. The neighbours helped to set every thing up and I felt very much humbled by the spirit of community and the sense of brotherhood. Aaron himself was very happy. He kept showering me with words of gratitude. A new chapter had begun in his life. Just as simple a thing as a disused wooden cabin had changed his life so much and restored his dignity. When the demolitions begun in Hatcliffe, I knew Aaron's house too would be hit. How could it survive the madness? I saw Aaron a couple of times at church and commiserated with him about his loss. He did not seem much troubled by it, though. Maybe if did not matter to him since he has lived rough ost of his life. But I was very upset that the little comfort that he had gotten used to, had been taken away from him. He told me that he was holding out by his housing stand since he had been paying his rates. "I can't just leave my stand like that, he told me. After a while I lost track of him. Last week I bumped into Aaron at Cledonia Farm. He had finally given up his stand and is now in this temporal holding camp. He has lost everything and is hoping to be allocated a building stand and start all over again. Aaron has not only lost his stand. He has lost the caring Christian community where he had been well received and accepted in spite of his mental health. In a country without adequate social security life is very difficult for mental health patients. He may never be part of a community where he can serve at the alter! He has lost the good neighbours who so readily helped in putting up his house. These neighbours who used to give him food when his fish had not sold well, have been scattered, only God knows where to. In Caledonia Aaron is alone. I am afraid that he will end up bundled up together with street vagrants and taken to Tsholotsho, or where ever it is government is going to dumb them. Yet Aaron is a decent man who struggled honestly with his mental handicap and had found for himself a community where he was accepted and loved. All that is now gone, thanks to Operation Murambatsvina.
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