Zimbabwe: Archbishop Ncube says 200,000 may die of hunger

 Archbishop Pius Ncube of Bulawayo warned yesterday that 200,000 Zimbabweans could die of hunger in the next few months because of food shortages caused by government policies. Speaking at the launch of a new film on "Operation Murambatsvina", about the government's recent massive demolition programme he said: "I think Mugabe should just be banished, like what happened to Charles Taylor. He should just be banished from Zimbabwe," said Ncube, referring to the former Liberian president forced into exile in Nigeria. "Let the man get banished if you don't want Zimbabweans to die," said Ncube. The archbishop said food security in Zimbabwe was so precarious that he estimated unless there was dramatic change malnutrition could contribute to the premature deaths of 200 000 people by February. Ncube said it was a personal estimate and based on his belief of the effect of severe food shortages on a population ravaged by HIV/Aids and extreme poverty at a time of hyperinflation and unemployment of almost 80%. He said 700 people a day already were dying of Aids in Zimbabwe and the rate of deaths would increase with malnutrition. Bishop Rubin Phillip, the Anglican bishop of KwaZulu Natal Province in South Africa and the co-chairperson of the Solidarity Peace Trust, a group of church leaders committed to human rights and democracy, said Zimbabweans "were living lives of desperation with no glimmer of hope". In May, the government without warning destroyed informal settlements and the kiosks of vendors. The United Nations said at least 700 000 people lost their homes or livelihoods in the campaign it called a clear violation of international law. The clerics say dozens of people, including newborn babies, died as a result of exposure. "You can see what kind of people we are dealing with here, murderers. I will not mince my words," said Ncube. The new film titled Hide and Seek shows Mugabe saying the operation was a cleanup campaign that would move people out of unpleasant informal settlements into new and better homes built by the government. The bishops said tens of thousands of people have simply been dumped in rural areas where they are unknown and unwanted. Nearly all have no jobs and no money. Eighty percent of the children have not gone back to school. "The amount of suffering is beyond imagination," said Ncube. Ncube said the government of Zimbabwe was only interested in cover up, lies and in making promises it has no intention of delivering. "In Zimbabwe, all the able bodied people have left. All those who are left in the country are victims," said the Rev. Nicholas Makuranda, an Anglican priest from Harare. Source: ZWOnline/BBC

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