South African clerics arrive in Zimbabwe for follow-up visit

Harare (dpa) - A delegation of South African churchmen arrived in Zimbabwe Monday on a three-day follow-up visit to assess the relief needs of churches in Zimbabwe following a controversial government "clean-up'' campaign, a member of the delegation said Monday.

The visit comes a week after tour led by the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, Njongonkulu Ndungane. That delegation reported back to the central committee of the South African Council of Churches (SACC) following their visit, and the second delegation is said to be here to share information on the outcome of that meeting.

Ivan Abraham, of the SACC said the delegation arrived in Harare mid-day Monday, added that the aim of the visit was "to share with the Methodist church in Zimbabwe, and be envoys for the SACC''.

He said his delegation, which is here at the invitation of Zimbabwe's Methodist church is expected to meet with their counterparts in the Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC) on Tuesday.

Churches in Zimbabwe have been at the forefront of helping people who have had their homes demolished in a controversial government campaign called Operation Restore Order that has seen police destroy shacks, backyard cottages and housing co-operatives said to have been built illegally.

Human rights groups say at least 300,000 people in towns and cities throughout Zimbabwe have been made homeless by the exercise, while many more have lost livelihoods following the demolition of flea markets and home industry bases targeted by Operation Restore Order, now in its second month.

Last week's visit by Ndungane was heavily criticised by state-controlled media in Zimbabwe, with the official Herald newspaper claiming that Ndungane's visit was masterminded by British intelligence agents, a claim denied by the British embassy in Harare.

On Sunday the Anglican Bishop of Harare, Nobert Kunonga repeated the accusation, telling a state-controlled weekly paper that the visit was "part of the British attempts to destabilise the country by painting a false picture of developments here for the international world''.

President Robert Mugabe's government claims former colonial power Britain and her allies are trying to find a pretext to implement regime change in Zimbabwe. dpa rt mga


Deutsche Presse Agentur
Copyright (c) dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH