JESUIT priests have claimed that government agents censored sections of the original National Vision document crafted by church organisations calling for n
ational dialogue and an all-inclusive constitution.
In a newsletter article entitled “The spirit of dialogue betrayed”, Jesuit priests say the discussion paper published by the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference, the Zimbabwe Council of Churches and the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe, was interfered with before it was officially launched.
The Jesuits show particular concern with the section on the need for a new constitution. They say the doctored version abridged a paragraph dealing with the constitution, completely leaving out: “utilising the information already gathered by government and civil society and submitting the draft to a referendum could easily achieve this by mid-2007”.
They also said there was need to produce a constitution around which there was national consensus and this was only possible when everybody was brought on board in the drafting.
The newsletter cites a number of instances where changes were made to the original text.
“There is a strong suspicion that the 42-page discussion paper presented to the President and released to the public to start a free national debate was doctored, presumably by government agents,” the newsletter reads.
It attributes President Mugabe’s dismissive attitude towards the initiative to his fear of losing power.
“In the eyes of government one thing is simply not negotiable: that is their hold on power. Anything that might weaken their hold on power is anathema, that is, unacceptable.”
It says references to pre-election violence were omitted, while references to “oppressive laws” become merely “contentious laws”.
“The paragraphs on ‘freedom of association’ and ‘freedom of speech and expression’ have been left out in the ‘official’ version,” the newsletter notes.
The Jesuits say in section 1.2.3 the original document says: “Some repressive pieces of legislation exist in our statute books, with the Public Order and Security Act (Posa) and the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Aippa) being of particular concern. Legislation that inhibits peaceful assembly and the free flow and exchange of ideas seriously impairs the efficacy of participatory democracy and the accountability of those who govern. Government has itself acknowledged that at least some of the provisions of Posa and Aippa need to be amended for consistency with the spirit and ethos of human rights as contained in our constitution.”
They also cite section 7.2.4 where in relation to the impact of Operation Murambatsvina the churches did not, as claimed in the official version, “acknowledge government’s subsequent efforts to build decent houses …in an operation called Garikayi/Hlalani Kuhle”. That claim was subsequently inserted.
“This is a figment of the censors’ imagination. It is a blatant lie,” the newsletter says.
In the official version “state media” have become merely “media” with the bland remark that the media is polarised and not always helping national unity.
But the original text stated that the state-controlled media “promotes a situation of violence by narrowing space for a meaningful reconciliation process to take place, so that it has created more confusion than solutions to the process of nation-building”.