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Catholic Commission Backs Stinging Bishops' Pastoral Letter on Human Rights Abuses in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe Journalist Hopewell Chin'ono and Transform Zimbabwe leader Jacob Nharivhume

The Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace in Zimbabwe (CCJPZ) says it fully supports Catholic bishops, who recently penned a hard-hitting pastoral letter that cited human rights abuses, corruption and other issues as the main causes of the southern African nation’s social, economic and political problems.

In an interview, Getrude Chimange, CCJPZ regional director for Manicaland, said the bishops’ assessment of the situation in the country is “an above fair” account of some of the problems facing Zimbabweans.

“The bishops have not in any way spoken a voice that is not speaking of the issues that are being raised by anybody else who knows what is happening in Zimbabwe and the attack by the government to the bishops really … it’s a disrespect of the citizens of Zimbabwe as a whole, not only the bishops. The issues that are being talked about in that letter are issues of poverty, issues of disrespect of the rule of law in the country, issues of corruption which are in no way a secret pertaining to Zimbabwe.”

Chimange said it’s unfortunate that the government attacked the leader of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Zimbabwe, Archbishop Robert Christopher Ndlovu, using language that incited tribal hatred.

“It’s unfortunate that the minister responded whilst not understanding the structures and how the Catholic Church operates. The attack on the personhood of the archbishop is in itself not really a good signal because when he speaks or when the bishops generate the pastoral statements it’s a representation of the whole Catholic institution and a representation of all the ordinary Zimbabweans. So, if any attack should come, it should come to the whole church body of the Catholic Church itself and not one person because he does not own it, he is just an archbishop and is chairing a Bishops’ Conference and a Bishops’ Conference is raising issues that are coming from all the Catholics in Zimbabwe.

“It’s unfortunate that they echoed statements around issues of tribalism. That’s very unfortunate. The issues that are affecting Zimbabweans are not affecting only one tribe. They are affecting everyone across board and we feel that the generation of tribalistic language is not proper, it's not well-placed. In any case, it's actually fueling a lot of divisions and the speech by the minister is what is dividing the country and not what the bishops said because the bishops represent all that is Zimbabwean and not any tribe.”

Chimange said there is hope that the matter will be resolved between the Catholic Church, government and other stakeholders.

Minister Mutsvanga lashed out at Ndlovu saying he represent a minority Ndebele group in Zimbabwe and therefore he is not in a position to say anything about what is happening in the country.

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.

Some Zimbabweans say the minister should step down, saying she is fanning tribal conflicts in the country.

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