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Government bans prayers, marches

SECURITY forces have banned prayer meetings and street marches to commemorate last year’s Operation Murambatsvina to forestall possible anti-government protests sparked by a deepening economic crisis.

The ban comes barely a day after government deported three foreign

labour unionists who had come to attend the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) congress.

The Christian Alliance, which had organised the Murambatsvina commemoration prayer meetings, expressed concern over the police’s sudden U-turn after granting them clearance to hold a prayer procession on Saturday May 20 to remember victims of last year’s urban blitz by government.

The alliance said it viewed the ban as an infringement on the freedom of worship, which has very serious implications for the liberties of the church in Zimbabwe.

“CA views this as an infringement of our freedom of worship,” the alliance said in a statement. “This police action has very serious implications for the life and witness of the church in Zimbabwe. Such action serves to clearly demonstrate the desperate position of government.”

Churches in Bulawayo sheltered over 2 000 families at the height of Murambatsvina and have continued to provide food assistance as well as medical help and payment of school fees for displaced children.

A prayer procession scheduled for Saturday morning from St Patrick’s Church in Makokoba to the city centre was part of nationwide activities being coordinated by Zimbabwe Christian Alliance in solidarity with the poor. A similar event was to be held in Chitungwiza on the same day.

On Monday about 10 000 people were rounded up in a fresh wave of displacements and dumped at Melfort Farm, 35 km along the Mutare road, prompting the United Nations to instruct its country representative in Zimbabwe to investigate.

On Wednesday the Ministry of Home Affairs failed to explain why immigration officials barred three foreign trade unionists who had come to attend the ZCTU congress which coincides with the labour body’s silver jubilee.

“The Minister of Labour had agreed in principle that no visitor will be deported,” Wellington Chibebe, the ZCTU secretary-general, said.

Minister of Labour, Nicholas Goche, could not be reached for comment.

Home Affairs minister Kembo Mohadi could only say: “Talk to immigration. Don’t bother me with those issues.”

Chibebe said he was baffled by this sudden turn of events since the ZCTU had submitted the names of the expected visitors to the Labour ministry.

The ZCTU expected 43 foreign delegates including representatives from the International Labour Organisation.

The deportees include Nina Mjoberg, a Norwegian and representative of ILO Norway, and Alice Siame, a Zambian national and consultant for the same organisation. They were deported on Wednesday.

Jani Mahlangu, an expert on pension funds and a representative of Cosatu of South Africa, was denied entry at Harare International Airport and immediately returned to South Africa.

Chibebe said the ZCTU had made an urgent chamber application to the High Court, but it was too late as the people had already been deported. — Staff Writer.

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