Shelter for women and children fleeing violence and socio economic conditions in Zimbabwe

Father Adrian, a Catholic priest in Musina, a South African town on the border with Zimbabwe, established a shelter for women and children fleeing, first, the violence, and then the socio-economic conditions in Zimbabwe.

Conditions in the shelter in the old Catholic church in Nancefield, a Musina township, are basic, but the Church provides meals to the about 100 or more people who bed down each night.

The women and their children are given temporary shelter while they apply for asylum seeker permits giving them temporary legal status. This usually takes about three days but can take longer, depending on the efficiency of the Department of Home Affairs. Father Adrian told IRIN about the shelter.

“The whole thing started soon after the [March 2008] elections when [Robert] Mugabe lost the presidential elections and ZANU-PF [the ruling party] lost the parliamentary elections, and he [Mugabe] then mobilized the so-called ‘war veterans’ straight away to intimidate the people and they simply started pouring across the border.

“They have terrible stories to tell, both of brutality and all the rest. One woman came to us after they had burned her husband and burned her house – she literally had to run from the graveyard to get away. Other people have different stories to tell, but people maybe arrive here with a little knapsack.

“The church shelter is for the women and children. There is a shelter to accommodate men elsewhere because the sexual abuse is something shocking.

“I believe at the [Musina] showgrounds [where as many as 5,000 people were sleeping while waiting to apply for asylum seekers permits until the authorities closed it] men walked up to women and said, ‘You are my wife tonight’, and the women had no choice but to go with them. There are a lot of things like that.

“We are able to provide nutrition for the young children, some of who have been born here. We started this food parcel scheme in mid-April, or so, in 2008.

“It started at one day a week and we very quickly had to change to five days a week. There were 30, then 40, then 50 – the number kept increasing and by mid-July the numbers were at about 100 a day.

“Finally, towards the end of last year, there were 300 people queuing up and we had food parcels for about 270 people, and then began to divide up the food parcels to share the food out, and that is the way things have been going.

“When people leave here after they have received their documentation, they go south to Johannesburg and Pretoria generally.”


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