The Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) is deeply concerned with the response by the Government of Zimbabwe, through the Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services, Monica Mutsvangwa, to the Pastoral Letter by the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishop’s Conference (ZCBC) entitled ‘The March has not ended” The letter, among other issues, denounced the human rights breaches by government. Several human rights actors have faced harassment, arbitrary arrests, abduction and torture, particularly since the onset of the COVID-19 induced national lockdown. The letter also noted how past, unresolved hurts such as Gukurahundi and the current unprecedented corruption levels are contributing to the frustrations of the citizenry.
It is unfortunate that, instead of self introspecting and at least engaging the clergy to deliberate on the issues raised, the government chose to target and launch a tribal attack on the Archbishop, Robert Christopher Ndlovu, accusing him of being evil minded and misguided. Such attacks are concerning, particularly in an environment where dissenting voices have been abducted or arrested. All that the ZCBC has done is, like every other Zimbabwean institution that seeks to see values of democracy being implemented, reach out to the government with the hope of building a better Zimbabwe.
The hate language and vilification by the government only serve to further increase tensions and are a clear disrespect of Sections 60 and 61 of the Zimbabwe Constitution that provide for Freedom of Conscience and Freedom of Expression respectively.
In the last few weeks, many institutions, among them, the African Union, the United Nations Secretary General, the chairperson of the African Commission for Human and People’s Rights have issued statements of concern about the events unfolding in the country. President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa has also dispatched envoys to Harare on same issues.
ZPP, whose vision is a Zimbabwe where there is Peace, Justice, Dignity and Development stands in firm solidarity with the ZCBC and all signatories to the Pastoral Letter, who called for the much needed inclusivity, when they noted that “…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 are met with promises and 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 regrettable that an institution, of the church, where citizens have always found refuge during turmoil is attacked for calling out government on widespread corruption, the health delivery that has become a death trap and an economy that has seen the majority of people sink deeper into poverty.
It is important for the government to be cognizant of their obligation to respect the rights of its citizens and protect them as enshrined in the Zimbabwe Constitution and other regional and international instruments that include the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
We, like ZCBC, simply ask government to do the right thing, return to constitutionalism and uphold the rule of law.
ZPP calls for:
- The government to acknowledge that the country is facing a crisis which, if left unattended, threatens to spiral out of control impacting the generality of citizens. Continued denial of the existence of a crisis that is there for all to see is not going to make it disappear.
- The government to realise that human rights are neither given at the benevolence of the government nor are they a privilege.
- The government to retract their hate statement and properly engage with the ZCBC a, the church at large and the Zimbabwean citizenry in dialogue.
- The government to stop fanning divisions among citizens through use of hate language.
Source: Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP)