> From Bulawayo:
I have stared into the face of evil, and I do not believe I will ever forget the sights of pure wickedness that have become commonplace in Zimbabwe.> A grave crime:
A woman sheltering in a local church courtyard gave birth hours after her home was torched and there lay the two day old baby, perched upon a pile of rags, like a discarded, broken doll. How long will this tiny creature survive? If she does what does the future hold in store for her?
Another woman with burns on her leg - she refused to leave her home, her shack, her only refuge, so the police just burnt it with her inside.
A mother of four who managed to save her clothing, only to have her last possessions ripped from her hands and thrown back into the flames.
The traumatized families, eyes devoid of joy, uncertainty casting a pall upon their lives. The horror is extraordinary.
My child asked me today when we dropped off some groceries at a church shelter why it is that the very people tasked to protect society are hurting them.
Youth militias dressed as riot police laughed last week as they smashed people's homes and livelihoods with bulldozers and sledgehammers. Many were concrete houses where people had lived for years. Markets that have stood since 1945 were razed. The owners watched as everything they had worked for was destroyed in the space of an hour.> A crime against humanity:
"A grave crime has been committed against poor and helpless people," read a statement by some of Zimbabwe's Roman Catholic bishops. "We warn the perpetrators, history will hold you accountable."
[Jesuit priest... too terrified to give his real name:] "People who worked to look after their families - carpenters, metalworkers, street vendors and caterers - have been turned into beggars by their own government. This is a crime against humanity...> The beginning of the end:
As Operation Murambatsvina or "drive out filth", moves into its second month, as many as... 1m city-dwellers have been made homeless by government bulldozers and axe-wielding police.
[F]ar from halting the brutal campaign, which has seen people forced to destroy their homes at gunpoint, government officials said yesterday they were extending it to rural areas. "We must clean the country of the crawling mass of maggots bent on destroying the economy," declared Augustine Chihuri, police commissioner.
Zimbabwe police have extended a demolition campaign targeting the homes and livelihoods of the urban poor to the vegetable gardens they rely on for food, saying the crops planted on vacant lots are damaging the environment.> The tragedy in pictures.
The crackdown on urban farming - at a time of food shortages in Zimbabwe - is the latest escalation in the government's monthlong Operation Murambatsvina...
The destruction of city plots is a painful reminder of one of the most hated policies of the white government that ruled before independence in 1980 - the random slashing of crops on roadsides and railroad embankments.
The current crackdown comes when this southern African country needs to import 1.2 million metric tons of food to avoid famine. Years of drought, combined with the seizure of thousands of white-owned farms for redistribution to black Zimbabweans, have decimated agricultural production.
Many poor families depend on their vegetable patches for food and a tiny income at a time of 144 percent inflation and 80 percent unemployment.
Many of the capital's 2 million residents till any vacant ground they can find for an annual production of 50,000 metric tons of corn - over a fifth of their total food requirements - according to farming expert Richard Winkfield.
The Rev. Oskar Wermter, former secretary to the Zimbabwe Roman Catholic Bishop's conference and a parish priest in one of the poorest downtown areas, called the crackdown against these plots "insane and evil."
"They are sleeping in the open air - tiny children and people dying of AIDS - and people you thought still had some decency are defending this crime against humanity," said Wermter. "It is a watershed, it is the beginning of the end, but the end will be terrible."
> Eddie Cross:
Mugabe has done just about everything he could do to hang onto power - he has subverted our justice system, our electoral system is a sham, he controls the media totally and has intimidated the opposition and civil society. He has created a political army and police force and a huge secret service that monitors all aspects of our lives. In pursuit of safety he has destroyed the economy and cut himself off from the rest of the world. Now he is doing the unforgivable - he is denying the absolute poor of this country the right to earn a living and their right to shelter and food.> The Zimbabwean Pundit has the link to an interview with Labour MP Kate Hoey about what she saw in Zimbabwe.
Even before this latest madness, we were reeling from the events of the past five years. Our life expectancy has halved, agricultural output is down by half, exports by two thirds, and incomes are a fraction of what they were 20 years ago. Hundreds of thousands are dying every year and a similar number flee the country for greener pastures as economic and political refugees. More people have died in armed conflict under Mugabe than under Smith - and that remarkable achievement was made without the benefit of a decent war.
I do not know how many will die in the next few weeks - but they will run to their thousands as hungry and thirsty people go to sleep in sub zero temperatures on open ground next to the rub[b]le of their homes and small businesses. They will mainly be the very vulnerable - the elderly, the very young but they will include many who are sick from Aids and HIV related diseases. To Mugabe these are "rubbish", to the Commissioner of Police - former Deputy Head of Interpol, they are "maggots". But to God they are the "blessed" and those who abuse them are condemned in the strongest terms in Scripture.
I estimate that 1 million small businesses have been destroyed in this exercise - their capital stolen and their premises burnt. This will deny 3 million people their sole means of making a living. I estimate that to date 1,5 million people have been made homeless and am told that over 300 000 children have dropped out of school.
> Garfield Todd (scroll down):
[W]e expect South Africa to do everything in its power to bring Mugabe and his henchmen down by whatever means it takes, including embargoes on fuel and power and loans from banks. It will be too late for the people already starting to die in Zimbabwe but the toppling of Mugabe may save hundreds of thousands of other lives for the future.Mbeki, yes, but not just Mbeki. The whole world is a bystander while state criminality unfolds yet once more. As in Rwanda. As in Darfur. Is the UN security council in emergency session? Are there tens of thousands of people protesting on the streets of the world's major cities? How is it possible to commend an international system, and a system of would-be law, which shows itself so repeatedly powerless to act when its most solemn pronouncements on human rights are blatantly disregarded?
The silence of President Mbeki and his ANC has made the great nation of South Africa complicit in the evil of Mugabe and his Zanu (PF)...