Pastoral Letter of the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference On the Current Situation in Zimbabwe
14 August 2020
John Robert Lewis, an American politician and civil-rights leader, who served in the United States
House of Representatives, died recently. At his funeral, he was praised for recognizing that the march for freedom is not ended even in the present time in which we live.
This too is our challenge in
Zimbabwe today between those who believe in a past und completed liberation and those who realize
that the march is not ended. Peacebuilding and nation-building are never completed tasks. Every
generation has to establish national cohesion and peace.
2. Current Ëvents
The struggle in Zimbabwe, between those who think they have arrived and those on the march, has resulted ina multi-layered crisis of the convergence of economic collapse, deepening poverty, food insecurity, corruption, and human rights abuses among other issues in urgent need of resolution.
The call for demonstrations is the expression of growing frustration and aggravation caused by the
conditions that the majority of Zimbabweans find themselves in. Suppression of people’s anger can
only serve to deepen the crisis and take the nation into a deeper crisis. This comes on the backdrop of
unresolved past hurts like Gukurahundi, which continues to spawn even more angry new generations.
The voices of various governments, the European Union, the African Union and the UN on the
the desperate situation in Zimbabwe has not only confirmed the seriousness of human rights breaches by government agents but they need to rally behind #zimbubweanlivesmatter.
Following the government crackdown on dissent after the 31 of July demonstrations, we have also witnessed attempts by President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa to intervene by sending a special envoy.
Their failure to make inroad consultations with the Church and civic society at this most tempestuous time was most regrettable. Was this not an opportunity missed?
In the meantime, some of our people continue to live in hideouts, with some incarcerated while others are on the run. Fear runs down the spine of many of our people today.
The crackdown on dissent is unprecedented.
Is this Zimbabwe
Do we want?
Having a different opinion does not mean being an enemy. It is precisely from the contrast
of opinions that the light comes. Our Government automatically labels anyone thinking differently as an enemy of the country: that is abuse.
The ruler demands gifts, the judge accepts bribes, the powerful dictate what they desire” Micah 3
Corruption in the country has reached alarming levels. Government and civic society are agreed
that corruption is chocking the economy. and compromising our justice system. While there is this
acknowledgment there hasn’t been equally a serious demonstration by the government to nd the country
of this scourge. The “catch and release approach makes the ordinary man in the street question the
sincerity of the government to deal effectively with corruption. Is there no connection between what
some journalists are unearthing about the government officials’ endemic corruption and their arrest?
In Micah 7:1-6 the prophet is miserable over the state of his nation. Nobody can be trusted, and
people wait in ambush to do violence to each other. This sad and sorry state, Micah says, is because leaders could not be trusted. they used their power for personal gain.
Micah was from the countryside, a prophet who proclaimed God’s reproofs to the rich and ungodly leaders of Judian.
Micah. like many of the prophets, champions the poor and the oppressed. With brutal honesty, he
communicated a message of justice and mercy. He cared for God’s people with profound compassion.
Micah graphically condemns Israel’s corrupt leaders and exposes their hypocrisy. God, the prophet
says, is not fooled when lenders mouth the right wors but have corrupt hearts. Political corruption, greed, arrogance was common amongst the leaders of his time. They didn’t care about the corporate or common good.
Micah says that when leaders lose their way, it is because they no longer see themselves as servant
leaders. They endanger everyone in the organisation or nation. Servant leaders place the interests and
needs of their followers ahead of their self-interests and needs. Generally. they value the well-being and development of their followers, building their communities, acting authentically, and sharing power.
The premise of servant leadership is that the most effective and influential leaders are those who
strive to serve others rather than take control or be in charge. The servant-leader will continually think about what involves the least damage or pain for the people over whose lives they have power.
Servant leaders will value the worth of every person. The organisation or nation they build will honor the importance of every individual. The prophet Micah proclaims a message that is especially relevant to the conditions we trace in our society and country.
4. Heroes and Defence Forces Days.
We have just celebrated the Heroes Holiday and the Defence Forces day in which we recall and express gratitude for the immense sacrifices made by our war heroes. Most of our people contributed
to the success of war effort in various ways. We remember Thomas Maptumo and others who
through their music conscientized the people about the struggle and the reasons for it. We know of
businessmen and women. teachers, the mujibhas and chimbwidos whose support was the difference
between winning the war and losing it.
As a nation, we must appreciate and be grateful to those who
despite not holding a gun made an immense contribution to supporting the cause.
As your Shepherds we are sensing that our national leaders want to take us back to the mentality and practices of the war times where it was us against them We want our politics to build a united nation and not to divide us, turning the military who ought to continue the memory of the late heroes against the people who fed them and clothed them and who gathered intelligence at great risk and saved many of our fighters from peril. Some of our vocal political leaders are busy re-creating the war situation of us and them, abdicating from the responsibility to build a united nation.
Have we not all been divided by this divisive political environment to the detriment of the national common good?
As we recognize the sacrifices made by all our people towards our liberation, we continue to worry
about what has become of “gusa ruzhinji” the mantra of the war times and the 80s. This is only
possible when we build a robust economy capable of benefiting the poor and the marginalized who
perhaps because of the war lost the opportunity to study and educate themselves or their children.
While we understand the need to re-engage with the global economic community we ought as well not to lose sight of the impoverished and marginalized Zimbabweans. For example. the newly signed
agreement between the Zimbabwean Government and the former Commercial farmers does not
feature or include the interests of the farmworkers and their families who lost livelihoods.
While we appreciate the effort of resolving the land question, we think that it should also show concerm for the most vulneruble. It seems to us that Zimbabwe is driving itself fast in the direction of capitalism
thinking that this will bring untold benefits for our people. We need to be cautious as Pope Francis
reminds us, “Some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic
growth, encouraged by the free market. will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and
inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralised
workings of the prevailing economic system.
Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting. To sustain a lifestyle which excludes others, or to sustain enthusiasm for that shellfish ideal, a globalization of
indifference has developed. Almost without being aware of it., we end up being incapable of feeling
compassion at the outcry of the poor.”(Evangeli Giaudium 2013).
As your Bishops. we feel that this described situation is true of Zimbabwe. It feels as though the poor have no one to defend them. They don’t seem to feature on the national agenda. Their cries for an improved health system go unheeded. Their plea for a transport system that meets their transport
blues is met with promises and more promises and no action. The only time we see real action is
when our leaders are jostling for power. to secure it or to ascend to offices of power. It is not clear to us as your Bishops that the national leadership we have has the knowledge. social skills, emotional stability, and social orientation to handle the issues that we face as a nation. All we hear from them is
the blame of our woes on foreigners, colonialism., white settlers, and the so-called internal detractors.
When are we going to take responsibility for our own affairs? When are we going to submit to the
requirements of national accountability? While our neighbors in the region are strengthening their
democratic institutions, we seem to be weakening ours.
Our Chapter 2 institutions, the judiciary and Prosecuting Authority seem to be losing their independence and effectiveness. Our health care institutions have collapsed. Our well-trained doctors and nurses remain incapacitated. For a long time, they have felt neglected. As Bishops, we have tried to open an honest dialogue on our health care personnel and the health care institutions, and the door was shut in our faces.
In the face of growing numbers of COVID-19 infections, where does the nation turn to? With the necessary tools in short supply in our hospitals, we notice with wounded hearts that government officials seem to have more PPE than our nurses and doctors.