The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA Zimbabwe) has expressed concern over “tribally connotative” utterances attributed to Information Minister, Monica Mutsvangwa, who attacked head of the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference (ZCBC) Archbishop Robert Christopher Ndlovu after Catholic bishops issued a blistering pastoral letter, citing human rights abuses and rampant corruption as the major causes of the current social, economic and political crisis in the country.
In a statement, MISA Zimbabwe chairperson, Golden Maunganidze, implored “politicians, more so those tasked with communicating government positions to use temperate and measured language while being tolerant of constructive criticism and divergent views.
“That is the hallmark of mature politicians and politics which goes a long way in lowering the highly-charged socio-economic and political environment, thereby, leaving room for dialogue and engagement on critical national issues.”
Maunganidze said the “tribally connotative” remarks attributed to the minister are not exemplary or helpful when viewed in the context of the constitutional obligations that bind senior government officials.
“In her strongly worded response to the pastoral letter, Minister Mutsvangwa singled out and accused Bishop Robert Christopher Ndlovu, ZCBC president, of leading the bishops on the pathway of petty tribalism, narrow regionalism and racial antagonism. MISA Zimbabwe’s great concern in that regard, is informed by the minister’s proximity to the media, more so as it pertains to the public media, which, as is expected with all other media, should guard against being the purveyors of hate language.”
He said Mutsvangwa violated some sections of Zimbabwe Constitution, which discourage any form of discrimination.
“Section 56, which deals with equality and non-discrimination, stipulates that every person has the right not to be treated in an unfairly discriminatory manner on the grounds of their nationality, race, colour, tribe, place of birth, ethnic or social origin, language, class, religious belief, political affiliation, opinion, custom, among others.
“In that regard, ministers and government officials, among others, should be exemplary in upholding the supremacy of the Constitution. Equally, the media plays an important role of ensuring that it does not disseminate information that is likely to engender discrimination, hostility or enmity on the basis of one’s tribe or ethnic or social origin.”
Maunganidze noted that the media should always guard against propagating information that has the potential of triggering tribal or ethnic hostility among the citizens of Zimbabwe.
“While Section 61 of the Constitution provides for freedom of expression and media freedom, it emphasizes that these freedoms exclude, incitement to violence, advocacy of hatred or hate speech and malicious injury to a person’s reputation or dignity.
“Public officials, should in that vein, be mindful of statements that have the potential of inflaming hatred or discrimination along racial, tribal or ethnic lines and should always use temperate language in their communication or responses to issues to avert animosity and hostility among citizens.”
Mutsvangwa was not reachable for comment as she was not responding to calls on her mobile phone.
In her response to the pastoral letter, Mutsvangwa said, “With nefarious cynicism to history, Archbishop Robert Christopher Ndlovu is inching to lead the Zimbabwe Catholic congregation into the darkest dungeons of Rwanda-type genocide. The letter seeks the revival and continuation of the perennial vices of division. It has a selective and warp-sided reading of history.
“The errant and evil Bishop has a nauseating mental amnesia of the blight of minority settler rule and its baggage of exploitative racism against the totality of the black majority popular of Zimbabwe. The levity of his mental amnesia is worsened by the fact that he tears off pages of the progressive crusade for justice and democracy that has hitherto been the shining virtue of the Catholic Church in Zimbabwe.”
She also said, “…He wants to posit as the leader of righteous Ndebele minority by fanning the psychosis of tribal victimization. Concurrently he sows sins of collective guilty on the Shona majority. That way he seeks to numb the spirit of collective national vigilance against the known and proven enemies of the populace of Zimbabwe.
“His transgressions acquire a geopolitical dimensions as the chief priest of the agenda of Regime Change that is the hallmark of the post-imperial major Western powers for the last two decades.”
Archbishop Ndlovu has not responded to Mutsvangwa’s remarks. The pastoral letter has been supported by the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, Law Society of Zimbabwe and several other non-profit organizations, individuals, opposition parties and ministers of religion.