LEADERS of Christian denominations in Zimbabwe, criticised in the past for their silence over lack of democracy as well as human rights violations in the country, this week blasted government fo
r its abuse of power.
The group of 109 church leaders released an unequivocal statement on the outcome of a conference it held this month in Kadoma. Representatives from the South African ecumenical community also attended the conference.
The report on the state of the nation identifies the various ways by which the Zanu PF government, referred to in the report as the “present regime”, like the colonial regime led by Ian Smith has subverted the rule of law as well as eroded fundamental tenets of human rights.
“We are aware that Zimbabwe is locked in a crisis of governance, that is characterised by the undermining of the rule of law,” the report says.
“There is also the use of political violence as a tool of intimidation, coercion and suppression of any form of opposition and the selective application of the law.”
The church leaders noted that the government has put in place draconian laws in order to violently maintain its hegemony and deny the opposition the chance to fight for political space in a working democracy.
“The conference is also concerned that draconian pieces of law, such as the Public Order and Security Act (Posa), Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Aippa), the Broadcasting Act, and the Citizenship Act are stifling fundamental freedoms and liberties of Zimbabwe’s citizens.”
The church leaders, in light of the suppression of the people brought about by these obnoxious pieces of legislation, called for their repeal, “with immediate effect”.
The report squarely lays the blame for the culture of violence prevailing in the country on the government.
“We are aware that the culture of violence that began during the colonial era, which has been taken to higher levels with impunity by the present regime, continues to escalate unabated,” the clergymen said.
They further noted that the ruling party had been abusing the national youth training system, the products of which, in collaboration with war veterans, are responsible for the perpetration of violence.
“The conference is deeply disturbed by the indoctrination and abuse of young people in the so-called national youth service centres whose graduates are used as youth militia, who alongside the war veterans commit serious human rights abuses and violence for party political ends.”
They also deplored the militarisation of key institutions such as the Grain Marketing Board and the Electoral Supervisory Commission.
The church leaders also condemned the chaotic and often violent land reform programme, abruptly embarked at by President Mugabe in 2000.
“We acknowledge the historical imbalances in respect to land distribution. However, we do not approve of the irresponsible, inhuman, partisan and non-transparent methods of addressing the problem.”
The report recommends that the land reform programme should be revisited and a thorough audit carried out to address the chaos.
They also blamed the government for creating and exacerbating the economic free fall in which Zimbabwe has been sinking over the past three years.
“The most affected victims are the poorest of the country while the rich get richer,” the church leaders observed.