Home > Queensland Synod News > Zimbabwe heeds church cholera call; Tutu talks tough on Mugabe

Zimbabwe heeds church cholera call; Tutu talks tough on Mugabe


The Zimbabwean government has declared a cholera outbreak which has claimed at least 500 lives so far across the country as a national emergency, as churches continue to plead for action and humanitarian assistance to deal with the epidemic.

"The emergency appeal will help reduce morbidity and mortality," health minister David Parirenyatwa told journalists on 3 December. "Our central hospitals are literally not functioning. We still have a challenge controlling the movement of people in an effort to curb further prevalence of the outbreak."

In the Netherlands capital, The Hague, on 4 December, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu said on the Dutch current affairs television programme NOVA: "I think now that the world must say, ‘You [Mugabe] have been responsible with your cohorts for gross violations, and you are going to face indictment in The Hague unless you step down’."

Reuters news agency reported on 5 December that Tutu responded when asked if Mugabe should be removed by force, "Yes, by force – if they say to him: step down, and he refuses, they must do so militarily. He has destroyed a wonderful country. A country that used to be a bread basket – it has now become a basket case."

In Harare, one of the country’s three main church groupings, the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe, had at the end of November urged the government to declare a state of disaster and allow aid agencies to come in to help prevent "further loss of life".

"The EFZ is urging the government of Zimbabwe to immediately declare the current cholera, hunger and water situation as a state of disaster that needs an urgent multi-sectoral response among other things creating an enabling environment for effective humanitarian field operations," the fellowship had said.

The first cholera outbreak was detected in the capital where 16 residents died early in October and it has spread to other districts.

Zimbabwean authorities suspended the licences of aid agencies in April after accusing them of supporting the opposition in the March general election in which veteran ruler Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party lost its majority in parliament for the first time in 28 years.

Zimbabwe’s Association of Doctors for Human Rights on 5 December repeated the action call: "The government should declare the cholera outbreak a national disaster and solicit international support to bring it under control and restore supplies of safe water and sanitation."

Cholera outbreaks are more common in Zimbabwe during the rainy season but the first cases were recorded before the onset of summer in Chitungwiza, a densely populated working class suburb outside the capital where some areas go for weeks without running water.

The government took over management of water supplies in towns nearly two years ago but has failed to meet demand, often cutting supplies to some parts for hours and sometimes days.

(c) Ecumenical News International