THE NGO NETWORK ALLIANCE PROJECT - an online community for Zimbabwean activists  
 View archive by sector


Back to Index

Mugabe denounced by Catholic bishops
Mail & Guardian (SA)
April 02, 2007

Zimbabwe's influential Roman Catholic bishops have abandoned a long-standing reticence to criticise Robert Mugabe, damning his government as "racist, corrupt and lawless" and likening the struggle against it to the country's liberation war against white rule.

The pastoral letter, read out in churches on Sunday, denounces "overtly corrupt" leaders for using "ever harsher oppression through arrests, detentions, banning orders, beatings and torture", days after Mugabe said that his opponents deserved to be "bashed".

The Catholic bishops' conference letter warns that Zimbabwe is heading towards a "flashpoint" but appeals for "peace and restraint" in protests ahead of a two-day general strike called from Tuesday. The letter said young Zimbabweans "see their leaders habitually engaging in acts and words which are hateful, disrespectful, racist, corrupt, lawless, unjust, greedy, dishonest and violent in order to cling to the privileges of power and wealth".

The bishops say the seizure and redistribution of white-owned farms over recent years, the centrepiece of what Mugabe portrays as his campaign to liberate Zimbabwe from the vestiges of colonialism, has enriched the elite but done little to help the poor. They conclude that the white settlers who once exploited what was Rhodesia have been supplanted by a black elite that is just as abusive.

"It is the same conflict between those who possess power and wealth in abundance, and those who do not; between those who are determined to maintain their privileges of power and wealth at any cost, even at the cost of bloodshed, and those who demand their democratic rights and a share in the fruits of independence; between those who continue to benefit from the present system of inequality and injustice, because it favours them and enables them to maintain an exceptionally high standard of living, and those who go to bed hungry at night and wake up in the morning to another day without work and without income; between those who only know the language of violence and intimidation, and those who feel they have nothing more to lose because their constitutional rights have been abrogated and their votes rigged," the letter says.

The bishops back calls for a new constitution "that will guide a democratic leadership chosen in free and fair elections".

Although the Archbishop of Bulawayo, Pius Ncube, has been outspoken in his criticism of Mugabe, Zimbabwe's Catholic bishops have largely remained silent until now. Some supported Mugabe, others believed that the church should not involve itself in politics. But they have been under growing pressure from their congregations to speak out.

Government hit squads have abducted and beaten hundreds of opposition activists over recent days. The police have also apparently been involved in assaults. Nine members of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) arrived at a Harare court on Saturday with severe injuries after four days in police custody. Two were taken to hospital on life support on the orders of a magistrate, over police objections, but were later returned to prison. Officials accuse the activists of petrol bombings of police stations, a supermarket and a train in a "terror campaign" that the opposition says is perpetrated by government forces to provide a justification for arresting Mugabe's opponents.

Zimbabwe's president not only justified the assaults on his opponents -- including the severe beating of the MDC leader, Morgan Tsvangirai -- he also warned there would be more violence. "Of course he [Tsvangirai] was bashed. He deserved it. ... I told the police: 'beat him a lot.' He and his MDC must stop their terrorist activities," he said. - Guardian Unlimited

Please credit if you make use of material from this website. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License unless stated otherwise.