Church versus Zanu-PF

First published in an edition of The Star dated Friday, August 21 2020, p6.

THE DEPARTURE of Robert Mugabe as president of Zimbabwe was hailed as the beginning of something new for the long-suffering people of the country. Three years later the “new” is a new round of human rights abuses, abductions, torture, the deployment of the military against its own people and a further economic slide.

The southern African region is in crisis, exacerbated by Covid-19, but caused mostly by rotten political leadership. Zimbabwe, Mozambique and South Africa are facing decline and failure. They find themselves headed by liberation movements that have failed to govern. Bad economic policy, greed, factionalism, impunity and entitlement are the common denominators.

Last week, the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference (ZCBC) issued a stern pastoral letter on the situation in Zimbabwe. The letter criticised the corruption, the political and economic situation, the poverty and the looting of Covid-19 funds.

The bishops warned President Emmerson Mnangagwa that attempts to silence dissident voices would make things worse.

The church’s leadership said the refusal to listen had led the country to where it was today. “ Zimbabweans feel that the government has turned their back on them.”

Various governments, the EU, AU and the UN have raised their voices about the desperate situation.

They lament that the South African envoy, sent by President Cyril Ramaphosa to intervene, was prevented from making consultations or meeting the Zimbabwean opposition.

The bishops said corruption had reached alarming levels, “chocking the economy and compromising our justice system”. The government had not shown a determination to fight the scourge. “The only time we see real action is when our leaders are jostling for power.”

They accused the leadership of not caring about the common good. “With 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.”

The government response was outrageous and shameful.

Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa labelled the head of the ZCBC, Archbishop Robert Ndlovu, “misguided” and “evil-minded”. The statement “wallow(s) in generalised and baseless accusations”.

She accused the archbishop of inciting ethnic violence, a “Rwanda-type genocide”. She said the “errant and evil Bishop had nauseating mental amnesia of the blight of minority settler rule and its baggage of exploitative racism against the totality of the black majority”.

Many organisations, like the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights and the African Diaspora Network, supported the Catholic bishops. There have been calls for the retraction of the minister’s statement.

The government made no attempt to respond to the letter. Many of the issues raised are not new. The church leadership has been slow to come out as strongly as they did.

Ironically, the similarities between Zimbabwe and South Africa are chilling. The downfall of Mugabe brought jubilation and hope that a new era would begin. Mnangagwa has shown that a change of face cannot change the rot in the Zanu-PF. South Africa is learning this hard lesson. It appears Ramaphosa cannot change the rot.

Fr Russell Pollitt SJ

Fr Russell Pollitt SJ is the Director of the Jesuit Institute and is interested in the impact that communications technology has on society and spirituality. He regularly comments on South African Politics and various issues in the Catholic Church. @rpollittsj
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1 Comment
  • Dennis Dewing.
    Posted at 12:42h, 24 Aug

    Thank you Father Russell — I am in the process of writing a long, detailed document about the Blatant Abuse of Power, Theft, Corruption and, MOST IMPORTANTLY, the TOTAL NEGLECT of the Poor, Struggling majority in our South African society. To add ‘insult to injury’, our MOST GUILTY cabinet ministers, have the audacity to make the most comments !!! I paid a visit to Nazareth House (Yeoville), two Sundays ago. The nun, Sister Irene, is from Zimbabwe. She raised the issue of the Church there, coming under fire, from the Zanu-P.F government. My intention, is to e-mail my document internationally. It’s HIGH TIME that the grossly Hypocritical international community now “start making the same NOISE” that was made in the period of colonial rule !!!

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