what follows was sent to my comments page..i feel it deserves more prominence..
This letter is written by Sister Patricia Walsh of the Dominican Order of the Catholic Church in Zimbabwe. Hatcliffe Extension
Family and Friends,
Thank you for your telephone calls, your e-mails, and all your support and encouragement in these dreadful days and hours – it is a great help.
The International Press says that the police are destroying Ã¢â‚¬Å“illegal structuresÃ¢â‚¬Â in Zimbabwe. Let me share with you a little of what is very legal but has been destroyed.
In 1992 many thousands of people were put into a Holding Camp at a Place called Hatcliffe Extension, they were not allowed to build permanent structures because this was going to be temporary. In 1995 one of our student Sisters, Tarisai Zata who was a student at t he School of Social Work and was doing some studies for her degree, one evening she came back home and said: Ã¢â‚¬Å“we must do something to help these people to live like human beingsÃ¢â‚¬Â and that was the beginning of the Dominican Missionary Sisters involvement in Hatcliffe.
We have worked with the people there for the past 10 years, peoples of all religions and none, people of all political persuasions and none.
Over the years through the generosity of you all we were able to sink 8 boreholes, help to feed thousands of people, build and run a crÃƒÂ¨che for AIDS orphans (180) of them. We visited once a week and two of our nursing Sisters, Gaudiosa and Carina treated people, helped to get about 100 people on to an Anti-Retroviral medicine programs etc do home based care, took people to hospitals etc.
The people of Hatchliffe have become friends and family of us the Dominican Sisters.
Yes, some people had moved in illegally, but the majority were there because they were put there and were repeatedly told that they would be moved to a better place at some time, most of them paid their monthly Ã¢â‚¬Å“rentÃ¢â‚¬Â for The little square patch.
On Friday morning last week I got a call that the riot police had come into a section of the area and demolished everything – most of the wooden shacks are just broken to pieces. I went out on Friday and Saturday – people were sleeping out in the open, many of them sick, cold and hungry. On Saturday I visited again some had managed to leave (those who have Z$500 000 – and have some relatives in Ã¢â‚¬Å“legalÃ¢â‚¬Â places”).
On Sunday morning I got a call that the police had given instructions that all structures in the original section have to be demolished within 24 hours, including the crÃƒÂ¨che, clinic and other structures which we had built with and for the people. Where do I get people on Sunday to come and dismantle all the buildings? I decided to wait until Monday. On Sunday evening I received one phone call after another saying Ã¢â‚¬Å“Come quick! They are going to kill usÃ¢â‚¬Â¦Ã¢â‚¬Â – others would say Ã¢â‚¬Å“DonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t come – you might be killed”.
Early on Monday morning I drove out to Hatcliffe, already in the distance I could only see smoke rising up – nothing else.
I arrived, I wept, Sister Carina was with me, she wept, the people tried to console us – they were ALL outside in the midst of their broken houses, furniture and goods all
over the place, children screaming, sick people In agony. Some of the people who are on ARV drugs came to us and said Ã¢â‚¬Å“We are phoning Sister Gaudiosa, (Sister is doing the ARV programme), but she is not answering us, we are going to die”. We explained that Sister was on home leave but that we would help in whatever way we could. It was a heartbreaking situation.
The structures Ã¢â‚¬Å“mentioned aboveÃ¢â‚¬Â that we the Dominican Sisters were working from were left untouched but had to be dismantled immediately otherwise they too would be destroyed. Sister Balbina from the House of Adoration came with carpenters and other staff members and started dismantling the structures.
We are distributing all of them to people who have nothing, they will be okay if we leave them lying on the ground. Some friends arranged for a crane to come in to lift out two containers where we had medicine and food stored – it was one of the saddest days of my life,.
How does one say that Peter (aged 10) and his little brother ,John (aged 4), (not their real names) are Ã¢â‚¬Å“illegal”. We had provided them with a wooden hut when their mother was dying, she has died in the meantime. These two little people had their little home destroyed in the middle of the night, we get there, they are sitting crying in the rubbish (that was their home until Sunday) – what do we do with them? They are only one example of the many vulnerable orphans whose little lives have been destroyed.
Veronica, (not her real name), is an elderly widow who is chronically ill herself, she has 3 young grandchildren from her dead daughter – her home is destroyed.She is wearing rosary beads around her neck, an apron with the picture of the Sacred Heart and a t-shirt with President MugabeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s photo – she has tried all means to survive!
Some people came and said, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Sister there are two people who are dying. Please come.Ã¢â‚¬Â one of them, Mary, (not her real name), who is out in the open all night lying on an old damp mattress, canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t move with pain, she has shingles,which is open and bleeding. What is worse? Her tears, or her bleeding wounds? I felt/feel paralyzed.
Anne, (not her real name), delivered a baby a week ago. She is critically ill, and is on the verge of death. What do we do with her? We give her pain-killers, we give her blankets, we give her food (which she in unable to eat) – what is going to happen to her baby?
Some of you have asked if I am safe. DonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t worry – we are well Ã¢â‚¬Å“protectedÃ¢â‚¬Â by the riot police who are cruising around this disaster area all day. I was so relived to see them eating sugar cane, which means that they are not hungry and will have the strength to Ã¢â‚¬Å“protect us”. I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t for a minute believe that they accepted this sugar cane from Ã¢â‚¬Å“illegal peopleÃ¢â‚¬Â on an Ã¢â‚¬Å“illegal settlement”.
A Grandmother asks, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Sister why has God abandoned us?Ã¢â‚¬Â I do not try to answer.
People call out Ã¢â‚¬Å“Sisters pray for us”. An emergency taxi (mini bus) stands in the middle of this Ã¢â‚¬Å“war zoneÃ¢â‚¬Â with the words Ã¢â‚¬Å“God is FaithfulÃ¢â‚¬Â written on it!
Just now we are going back there with food, clothing, medicine and cash. We can only try.
I am NOT cold, I am NOT hungry but I am very ANGRY. I pray that this Will
pass. We stand in shock and cry with the people but we also have to try to
keep them alive. When will sanity prevail. Where is the outside world? Busy
ta lking about a Ã¢â‚¬Å“NO vote by FranceÃ¢â‚¬Â
How can the Ã¢â‚¬Å“little ones of this world be brutalised in this way”? – Their only crime? They are poor, they are helpless, and they happen to live in the Ã¢â‚¬ËœwrongÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ part of town and in a country that does not have oil and is not very important to the West.
One bystander told me that he had phoned the Red Cross asking for help, but was informed Ã¢â‚¬Å“it is not a war situationÃ¢â‚¬Â so there is nothing we can do!
PRAY FOR US.
God bless and reward you for your concern,
Sister Patricia Walsh.