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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 July, 2005, 10:58 GMT 11:58 UK
Church outrage at Zimbabwe raids
Zimbabweans in a temporary camp
People are living in the open in Zimbabwe's winter
South African church leaders have accused Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe of "trampling on humanity" with the recent destruction of houses.

A South African church delegation has just completed a visit to Zimbabwe to see the consequences of raids on shack dwellers and informal traders.

Shack demolitions over the past two months have left more than 200,000 people homeless, according to the UN.

The government says the crackdown is aimed at ridding cities of criminals.

The police have this week started demolitions in more affluent parts of the capital, Harare.

Eddie Make, deputy secretary general of the South African Council of Churches (SACC) said a visit to the Caledonia transit camp near Harare, to which people have been relocated, had caused the delegation "a lot of pain".

"People had literally been removed from their places of abode and dumped in a remote area with no cover other than plastic sheets and pieces of wood they had cut from surrounding trees in order to protect them from the winter cold," he told the BBC's Network Africa programme.

Mr Make said the delegation appreciated that governments have a responsibility for law and order.

"But we are of the opinion that this is not creating order," he said. "Rather, it is disrupting the lives of people."

Political solution

"We would like to say to President Mugabe that he is trampling on the humanity of people and as we believe all people, regardless of whether they are poor or engaged in illegal activities, are created in the image of God it is therefore incumbent upon the political authorities to respect their human dignity."

Mr Make said that as a church organisation, SACC would pray for those responsible for the actions.

"Secondly we would like to encourage churches in South Africa and around the world to write letters of support to the people of Zimbabwe," he said.

A seven-year-old boy crying after his home was demolished
This seven-year-old boy cried after his home was knocked down
He added his organisation would campaign for aid and relief to Zimbabwe, because "it is quite apparent that this kind of assistance is not being offered by the Zimbabwean government, and it is an open secret that when aid is made available to the country it is being used for political purposes".

Mr Make also said SACC would "be facilitating a political solution for the people of Zimbabwe through talking to the president of South Africa".

Anglican Archbishop Njonkulu Ndungane and Catholic Cardinal Wilfred Napier were also part of the interdenominational church delegation.

New South African Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka has also visited Zimbabwe.

After meeting Mr Mugabe, she said her country was working to understand the challenges facing Zimbabwe.

Meanwhile, a motion condemning the demolitions has been rejected by Zimbabwe's parliament.

It was proposed by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change but lost the vote 54-33.

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