Zimbabwe

Church warns evictions may turn youths into "catalysts for conflict"

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JOHANNESBURG - South African church leaders yesterday warned that the demolition of thousands of homes by the Harare authorities may turn young Zimbabweans into "catalysts for conflict".

The church leaders are in Zimbabwe to assess a controversial government "clean up" exercise that has thrown close to a million people onto the streets.

"Young people who could be agents for change may become catalysts for conflict as they are exposed to the hopelessness of their parents," said the report released today.

The demolition of thousands of houses and backyard cottages has drawn international outrage with the United States, Britain, human rights and church groups condemning the exercise as an assault on the rights of the poor.

But the government says the clean up is necessary to spruce up the images of cities and towns and smash the illegal foreign currency market blamed for Zimbabwe's economic ills.

ARCHBISHOP Njongonkulu Ndungane . . . leading the delegation

"This deliberate destruction of the informal economy, which is meant to cater for the economically vulnerable groups is unparalleled in modern day Africa," said the report.

The church leaders said they had witnessed a humanitarian crisis which was last experienced in Zimbabwe during the country's liberation struggle in the 1970s.

The 12-member church delegation led by Anglican Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane, arrived in Zimbabwe last weekend. They have already toured Caledonia holding camp on the outskirts of Harare where they have described the conditions there as "shocking."

United Nations special envoy Anna Tibaijuka who was sent to assess the demolitions by UN secretary general Koffi Annan left the country last weekend after touring the country for two weeks. She is expected to present her report to Annan soon. - ZimOnline