Starving villagers arrested

Police round up 12 children and 56 adults from Killarney squatter camp
BY MARTINE STEMERICK
BULAWAYO - Trouble has stalked the starving villagers of Killarney ever since their homes were destroyed during Murambatsvina. But life got even tougher last Tuesday when police raided the squ


atter camp, rounding up 56 adults and 12 children who were imprisoned overnight in a Bulawayo jail. Thanks to the intervention of Bulawayo’s ministers, everyone was released without charge by Thursday morning.
The trauma of the arrest frightened the children and vulnerable adults, several of whom had to be taken for medical care. Thursday found one of the pastors on his way to hospital with several of the people from Killarney who had spent Tuesday night and most of Wednesday in jail — and not for anything they had done.
The police rounded up 56 adults and 12 children, mostly youngsters under 5, and put them in jail. The police said they were worried about thieves and malcontents hiding at Killarney, but the pastors, who know their flock, reassured them that these people are simply the very old and the very young: any one who can flee has left long ago to find their way across the border to look for work.
Killarney’s ministers did not have any food for the people in jail, but colleagues had some maize porridge, so the churches were allowed to feed the Killarney residents in prison. The shivering unfortunates were put in an open enclosure, all huddled together. The children shook with cold and fear. There were not enough blankets to go around.
The villagers were finally freed late Wednesday. The police did not charge them with any offence, so the pastors were allowed to get them out of jail without paying fines. When the pastors finally got everyone released, those who required medical care were taken to the hospital. The sad truth is that the poor of Killarney are dying daily of cold and lack of food. Bulawayo ministers had a service at Killarney on Sunday to praise God and give thanks to generous donors for graciously providing blankets and a bit of food.
Because of charitable donations, 150 families now have one blanket for the whole family. There are no beds: those were destroyed during Murambatsvina. The whole family sleeps on a bit of cardboard on the freezing cold earth, with one blanket and whatever clothes they possess piled on top of them. Their makeshift shelters are covered with bits of discarded plastic or whatever else they can scrounge.
According to their pastor, blankets are not the first priority: food is. The poor are dying each week of cold, exposure, but most of all, lack of adequate food. Two of Killarney’s young families lost their small daughters last week: one little girl was 15 months, the other was 18 months. Both girls were buried on Monday. The police attacked on Tuesday, adding further stress on the precarious lives of vulnerable under-fives and stick-figure adults.
Water is hard to come by. There is no borehole at Killarney. Women walk 5 kilometres to the nearest river to fetch water for cooking, drinking, washing. Three-hundred and fifty blankets are still needed. In three weeks, however, the land will begin to warm up again. Winter is almost over. Killarney’s pastor says food comes first.
“Food remains the most scarce and unaffordable commodity here. We have done our best for the winter at least for some of them and I would pray that if resources allow me to go and buy maize meal, sugar beans or matemba etc.”
Most of the families at Killarney have seven or eight members. They require at least a 50-kg of maize meal per month, as well as sugar beans, kapenta fish, cooking oil, bath & washing soap, salt.
If funds were available, the good people of Killarney would like to help themselves by implementing some small-scale development projects: poultry keeping, vegetable gardening, sewing, goat rearing, and so on.
“We hope that as the Lord provides some of the above so that the people will gradually become self-supportive,” said the minister. – The full interview describing the arrests and the situation at Killarney can be heard on “Zim Alive” on www.swradioafrica.com for two weeks via the Archive option. Charitable contributions for the people of Killarney can be made to: Alvaston Methodist Church – The Zimbabwe Fund. c/o Revd Dr Martine Stemerick, 478 High Road, Benfleet, Essex SS7 5AL

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