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Government Attack: Zimbabwe Groups Rally Support for Catholic Bishops

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By Daniel Jones, Harare

(AFRICAN EXAMINER) – Professional rights and civic groups in Zimbabwe have stood in solidarity with the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference (ZCBC) in the wake of vilification by government and called on the political leadership to retract its statement and apologise.

Catholic Lawyers Guild in Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) and Zimbabwe Peace Project are some of the groups that issued statements publicly denouncing government attack on the Catholic Church.

This follows a statement by Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa labeling the Catholic bishops as misguided and evil minded.

This was after the ZCBC released a Pastoral Letter titled “The march is not ended” castigating political leaders for “re-creating a war situation and called for a national transformation.

Irked, Mutsvangwa singled out Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Harare Robert Ndlovu accusing him of being genocidal and positing to be a leader of the righteous Ndebele minority and sowing sins of collective guilty of the Shona majority.

There is generational tension between Ndebele and Shona tribes over the 1980s massacre of the former by the ex-President Robert Mugabe’s 5th brigade army, then led by current President Emmerson Mnangagwa, which left more than 20 000 dead including bayoneting of pregnant women.

Opposition political parties, civic activists and rights groups said tribal rants by the information minister were likely to cause a civil war.

They have demanded a public apology and retraction of the statement while also calling on government to materially act on issues raised by ZCBC.

“We as Catholic Lawyers Guild in Zimbabwe are deeply concerned by government of Zimbabwe’s unwarranted vitriolic attack on the pastoral letter issued by ZCBC. We further note with concern the attempt by the minister to divide the bishops by targeting the Archbishop of Harare and president of ZCBC.

“Without responding to the issues, government issued a vicious attack on bishops. We demand an apology and retraction of the vitriolic response, an assurance that no harm will befall the bishops on account of the Pastoral Letter and any future communication that as true shepherd they will release, an acknowledgement that Zimbabwe is in a crisis, respect for human rights and rule of law,” said the Catholic Lawyers Guild in Zimbabwe.

ZimRights commended ZCBC for showing courage, concurring with the bishops that the march is still on.

“We are concerned at the use of hate speech against the bishops, especially the ethnic attack on the person, identity and dignity of the Archbishop of Harare. We condemn this attack. It is unwarranted and unjustifiable.

“We call upon the government of Zimbabwe to retract the hate-filled statement and urgently heed the call by the bishops for urgent dialogue before it is too late. Until there is a resolution to the multi-layered crises in our country, the march is indeed not ended,” said ZimRights.

ZLHR condemned vilification of the Catholic Church bishops saying it borders on hate speech.

“As ZLHR we are greatly concerned that the intolerance of President Mnangagwa’s government on dissent and criticism is becoming more despicable every passing day.

And we should realize that it is the manifestation of President Mnangagwa’s followers’ fear of the people’s legitimate dissatisfaction from a leaders who claimed and promised to be a listening President which is equally growing,” stated ZLHR.

The Zimbabwe Peace Project concurred saying government further fueled tension in the country.

“We simply ask government to do the right thing, return to constitutionalism and uphold the rule of law and admit that the country is in crisis,” it said.

Assuming power, Mnangagwa became popular for saying the voice of the people is the voice of God, which observers say he has failed to show.


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