Red tape forces SA churches to give up aid shipment to Zimbabwe

 South African church leaders gave trying to take a shipment of clothes to victims of Mugabe's slum clearing campaign, after weeks of battling with Zimbabwe's new import controls. Instead they are giving the clothes to Zimbabwean immigrants living in South Africa. South African Council of Churches (SACC) provincial organising secretary Reverend Gift Moerane told ZimOnline that the council had decided that given the bureaucratic hurdles encountered the last time they sent aid to Harare, it was better to donate the clothes to Zimbabwean immigrants in South Africa who were also in need. "The paperwork and all the procedures at the border were strenuous. In a meeting last week, we agreed that it was better to focus on Zimbabwean refugees who are based here because they are also living in dire straits," said Moerane, as he handed over the clothes to the immigrants at Yeoville Recreational Centre in Johannesburg. More than 300 immigrants were at the centre to receive the clothes. Six thousand blankets and 37 tonnes of food raised by the SACC for the slum clearing victims remained stuck at Beitbridge for several weeks as Harare customs authorities first demanded duty for the goods, this despite the fact that Zimbabwe does not charge duty on aid. When the government finally agreed to waive duty after heavy lobbying by Zimbabwean non-governmental organizations, it still would not allow the food into the country saying it first wanted proof that the food was not genetically-modified. Zimbabwe and several other southern African governments prohibit genetically modified food over safety concerns. The food consignment was allowed into Zimbabwe several weeks later and only after the South African Department of Agriculture issued a certificate confirming the food was not organically produced. The SACC had in August said it would launch a massive relief operation dubbed 'Operation Restore Hope for Zimbabwe' to help some of the 700,000 people that the UN reported were left without shelter or means of survival, after President Robert Mugabe ordered police to demolish shantytown homes, city backyard cottages and informal business kiosks. The UN said another 2.4 million people were also affected by the operation that was widely condemned by the international community but which Mugabe defended as necessary to smash crime and restore the beauty of Zimbabwe's cities. While Mugabe's government is stalling on a request by the UN for the world body to raise US$30 million worth of aid for the victims of the urban clean-up campaign, it appears hurdles it placed in the way of the SACC in August, effectively knocked flat the zeal of the council to assist internally displaced Zimbabweans. Source: ZimOnline

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