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Church calls for restraint and peace in Zimbabwe

23 January 2019

The Catholic Church in Zimbabwe has issued a pastoral letter expressing “sadness and concern” at the current political situation in the country.

Writing in the letter, the Bishops of Zimbabwe say:

“We have observed with increasing concern and alarm the state of our Zimbabwean nation from the time of the military-assisted political change that took place in November 2017 to the total shutdown of Zimbabwe's major cities and rural trading centres that began on Monday, 14 January 2019.

“We witnessed with sadness and concern the dissipation of hope for a united nation and a promising future when our politicians failed to harness the palpable oneness and goodwill prevailing among Zimbabweans across the political divide during and immediately after the political events of November 2017.

“We also witnessed with sadness and concern the resurgence of political and social polarisation before, during and after yet another disputed national election held on 30 July 2018, culminating in the violent unrest on August 1, 2018, during which property was destroyed, many people were injured and at least 6 civilians were shot dead.”

The Bishops highlighted the Government of Zimbabwe’s “failure to arrest the deteriorating economic situation” in the country and highlighted their “heavy-handed and intolerant handling of dissent”.

“The dramatic pre-election events seemed to many Zimbabweans to promise a new chapter of our history and were greeted by most with immediate and spontaneous rejoicing,” said the Bishops. “We had many reasons for hope. At the same time, however, other voices raised concerns about the unconstitutional mode of these changes, and in particular the initial and continuing role of the military with attendant risks to the freedom of our political processes that this might carry for the future. The post-election period has justified some of those concerns. Zimbabwe is burning; its economy is hurting; its people are suffering.”

The Bishops highlight the “moral and spiritual” crisis facing Zimbabwe:

“We do not need a strong man or woman but strong institutions. We need to develop a new and challenging kind of politics, a new cooperation and harmony based on reasoned argument, generous compromise and respectful toleration. Zimbabwe is faced with a crisis that is not just political and economic but moral and spiritual. A new Zimbabwean politics needs to be more collaborative, inclusive and based not on one or two leaders, however effective and charismatic, but rather on strong democratic institutions that embody and secure the values of our democracy, regulate our politics, build trust and administer peace, truth and justice to all.” 

The Bishops letter has the following recommendations:

  • For the Government and Opposition “to put their differences aside and work together to free Zimbabwe from economic shackles and international ostracisation.”
  • For the Government to “desist from unilateral imposition of policies that exacerbate the people’s suffering” and to “desist from heavy-handed handling of dissent”.
  • For people to “express their constitutional rights in a peaceful and nonviolent manner”.

The letter was signed by seven Bishops and Archbishops of Zimbabwe.

Read the letter here.

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