Zimbabwe: a pastor reports on Operation Drive Out Trash

 It is currently winter in Zimbabwe with temperatures reaching freezing point at night. Since last week, thousands of people have been forced to sleep in the open since government soldiers destroyed an entire township. In the south of the country troops have also been demolishing homes and businesses. A Bulawayo pastor sends this report. All is quiet on 5th Avenue, but all is not well. The scene is of utter chaos. The stalls have been trashed, the produce destroyed. Rats are running all over the place. Wooden tables lean drunkenly on three legs, torn plastic covers are draped over twisted metal frames. It is a scene of desolation and a scene of despair. Everything is broken. A few shattered and squashed vegetables are lying on the ground. An occasional cyclist and Scania (handcart) move slowly down the street making their way round the scattered pathetic debris. The police came on Wednesday morning under direct orders from the highest office in the government and in just a brief time brought crashing down the stalls, the hopes and the livelihood of hundreds of innocent people unable to defend themselves. People trying to earn an honest living have been left destitute by a cruel, unjust and vicious government. These people were doing nothing illegal. They have licences to carry on their business. They have paid for those licences. They each have a licence number and a stall number. They pay rent for the sites along 5th Avenue. On Wednesday, I stopped to speak to two of the stallholders. They were too frightened to give me their names. They were just sitting there. And yet when we spoke they were able to manage a smile. They have current licences and they have paid for their site. I asked them what they would do now. Their answer was brief and heart rending: "We will starve and our children will starve." I did not know these two, but over the years have come to know several of these hardworking, cheerful and patient people. Their stalls were open for long hours as they waited patiently for customers. They were up early in the morning to buy good quality produce. Some of them must have risen before 4am to get from their homes in the western suburbs. Now they will be unable to pay their rent and face eviction from their homes. No jobs are available. Their children will have to leave school, unable to raise school fees. Anger and sympathy welled up in me in equal proportions. God is neither deaf nor blind and he hears the cries of the oppressed. Source: Sokwanele Sokwanele is a voluntary website run by Zimbabwean journalists - since most newspapers in the country have been closed by the government. It also has a ongoing blog page: www.sokwanele.com

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