17 June 2005

Methodist Church expresses deep concern over Zimbabwe

The Methodist Church of Great Britain (MCB) has expressed deep concern about the political situation in Zimbabwe. In recent weeks the Zimbabwean government has been clearing dwellings in what is seen by some as a programme of political intimidation. At the same time, the country's main harvest has failed due to erratic rainfall leaving many people vulnerable.

Roy Crowder, MCB World Church Secretary for Africa, said, "we note the statements from the Zimbabwe National Pastors Conference and other Christian groups and are greatly concerned about this new expression of political violence in Zimbabwe. There can be no justification for such sudden and indiscriminate demolition of so many homes leaving men, women and children with nowhere to go. We pray for those affected and for churches and other groups in the country who at this time are seeking to persuade the Government of the injustice of this action. MRDF and the World Church office are in dialogue with local partners regarding the clearance operation and will determine whether further support is required."

Meanwhile the food situation in Zimbabwe is causing alarm after poor rains that have affected the prospects of harvests in several countries in the region.

Steve Hucklesby, Secretary for International Affairs for the Methodist Church, said, "The UN have estimated that 3 to 4 million Zimbabweans will require food assistance this year. The Government claims that the Grain Marketing Board will order 1.2 million tonnes of grain from neighbouring countries but this will be a big challenge given the current foreign exchange situation."

"Many people are very vulnerable having already reduced their food intake to one meal a day," said Steve Hucklesby. "It takes time to mobilise food and needs careful advance planning. Last year President Mugabe predicted a bumper harvest and ordered the WFP food assessment team out of the country. The situation this year will demand good working relationships between the Government of Zimbabwe, UN, private sector, NGOs and churches."

In May 2005, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported that the government confirmed that it was prepared to accept the findings of surveys carried out by the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZIMVAC), provided the results were credible and reflected the country's "national situation". The ZIMVAC is a collaborative effort by United Nations agencies, the government and donors, to gain a clearer picture of household vulnerability.

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