.- Robert Mugabe's regime in Zimbabwe is training young adolescents to reinforce his police units by using brainwashing techniques in army camps.This information was given by Archbishop Pius Ncube of Bulawayo to the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).
President Mugabe is under extreme pressure, and state control is growing, said the archbishop, adding that at a recent gathering of priests, some of these young police had appeared, insisting on being present at the meeting. When they were told that this was not possible and refused access, they demanded to speak to the chairman of the meeting. The meeting was an entirely non-political one at which no political issues were discussed.
Generally, there has been an increase in state interference. People are already being intimidated now, in anticipation of the elections scheduled for next year.
According to the archbishop, over 600 people were recently arrested, beaten, tortured and held for weeks. "This intimidation campaign is aimed at breaking the people", added Archbishop Ncube, saying that the government was increasing the level of fear "to the maximum". He himself saw it as part of his vocation to raise his voice aloud on behalf of the poor and helpless. He had no fear on his own account, he added.
The situation in the country is becoming ever more critical, with inflation now having risen to over 5000%. The official figures are not correct, according to the archbishop. The astronomical inflation has led millions to flee the country, many of them being children who often become victims of sexual exploitation. Altogether an estimated 3.5 million of the country's 12.9 million inhabitants had fled or are in the process of fleeing.
The mass exodus of people is leading to a collapse of many infrastructures in the country. For example, some 10,000 teachers have left Zimbabwe, hoping to find work in South Africa -- a development the Archbishop viewed with concern.
The humanitarian situation is likewise becoming ever more acute. More and more children are dying of malnutrition, according to Archbishop Ncube. Babies are especially at risk and often, by the time the mothers had taken them to hospital, they are beyond help.
The number of people without food has decreased, but life expectancy still continues to fall for the one million or more victims of HIV in the country, with a corresponding dramatic increase in the number of AIDS orphans. Currently, one in 10 children is already an orphan, making Zimbabwe the country with the highest rate of orphans in the entire world. There are 38,000 households run by children alone.
The Church is striving to provide charitable help, though this was no more than "a drop in the ocean", Archbishop Ncube said. He appealed urgently to the West to help the people of Zimbabwe.