Zimbabwe: Churches call on government to stop attacking the poor

 Churches in Zimbabwe today appealed to the government to stop violent attacks by security forces on the poor. In the capital Harare police continue to arrest street vendors, confiscating their barrows and dwellings. The appeal was signed by the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission representatives of Protestant Churches, the association of human rights lawyers, the Human Rights Trust of Southern Africa, representatives of the university world. Today in Zimbabwe 80 per cent of the population of 11 million is unemployed. President Robert Mugabe's policy of land redistribution has destroyed the country's economy. Zimbabwe once south Africa's granary is now dependent on foreign food aid the crisis is affecting neighbour countries who used to buy food from Harare. While poverty tightens its grip on the nation the government increases its means to control the people and repress opposition. Despite the desperate economic conditions the government assigned more funds to the armed forces and the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) which recently acquired technology to control and block communications, telephone, television and radio at home and to and from abroad. Mugabe's latest campaign is against street vendors. These people were persuaded to become street vendors by Mugabe's 1991 law encouraging private businesses. Now the pressure is on. Already 500 families have been told to evacuate homes in an outer northern district of Harare despite a 2002 Housing Ministry agreement. The Opposition says that President Mugabe wants to send most of the poor people away from cities back to rural areas where they can be more easily controlled by distribution of the scarce food supplies in the hands of the President's supporters. Source: LM Fides

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