May 2001

„... that the nation is not held to ransom by a few“: Pastoral Letter by the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops‘ Conference


The Lord God created the human person, male and female, in his own image. He gave them a dignity, which is above all creatures. Each person, whether old or young, poor or rich, has got the right to it and society with all its various organizations must recognize and uphold this dignity. No government or political party can appropriate it but must recognize, uphold and protect this human dignity which is God-given.

In our country the holders of political power, including those claiming to be Christians, do tend to abuse their fellow human beings. They just use them to achieve their own political ends and then dump them afterwards. A person is only useful as long as he is a means to their political ambitions. A human being is reduced to a thing that one uses and in fact abuses. A case in point is the way political figures and political parties have used our unemployed youth during election times.

Violence, intimidation and threats are the tools of failed politicians. We must point out to them that they are engaging in an unjust activity.

As your pastors, dear brothers and sisters, we call upon you to uphold the dignity and sacredness of each person. We would like to underline the fact that it is an inherent right of the person to take part in the political activities of his or her society. In dialogue with other members of society he or she will advance her political views or opinions. Society has the obligation to ensure that each member is free to express his or her political views without fear of being victimized. Political ideas or views are man made and therefore tend to vary with times, places, and situations. Frustration of this basic right of the person leads to turmoil in society. It impedes the harmonious development of the person and of society as a whole. In fact in a society such as ours, which is multi-cultural and multi-racial, we will always differ in opinions, and therefore we call upon every citizen to exercise a very high degree of tolerance.

The lack of this tolerance is clearly evidenced by the violence that continues to grip our country. It is a shame that we who claim to be modern resort to violence in order to advance our political ideas. We have witnessed with sadness the loss of human life and the destruction of property due to differences in political views or opinions. We Zimbabweans fought for justice, peace, democracy and economic well being of all our people. Each Zimbabwean has a right to security of life and property and no politician has a right to deprive any person of this right. Public offices are supposed to serve the common good. We pay tribute to all those politicians and public officers who take seriously their role in working for the welfare of all. However we note with sadness that in many cases public officers come to be associated with self enrichment and corruption. There is need for transparency and accountability in public office. Allegations of corruption in such institutions as NOCZIM, GMB, War Victims Fund and so forth have undermined the government's moral ground from which it should operate. Those who have a case to answer should be brought to court.

The activities of war veterans, in both urban and rural areas, are not solving problems in the proper manner. The closure of local government offices have denied essential social services to the people. It is the duty of government to ensure that the nation is not held to ransom by a few. We urge the government to allow the law enforcement agents to perform their duties without interference so that there is a sense of security in the country. Let us remind each other of the fact that no one person or group of persons liberated this country alone. The great majority of Zimbabweans because of their love of freedom and sense of justice liberated it through their sacrifices. We believe that what was true in the hard sixties and seventies, that people loved freedom and justice, is still true today.

The one pressing issue which must be settled urgently, in fact it should have been settled long ago, is the question of land. We acknowledge that there is an urgent need of economic reform to redress the imbalances that exist in our society today where we have 75% of our population living under the poverty-datum-line. Unfortunately, the distribution of land has been marred by violence, deaths and intimidation. The programme of land distribution should target the people who are really in need of it. We should be careful not to create more injustices in the process of addressing legitimate concerns. It is also important that the farm labourers are catered for in the exercise. Priority should also be given to the setting up of infrastructure and providing resources. Small scale farmers have proved that they can contribute meaningfully to the economy of the country.

The problems of a developing society are immense. No one person or party has all the answers. We need national dialogue. We need to listen to what all groups in society have to say. All citizens must be allowed to speak freely what their concerns are, fathers and mothers, farmers and industrial workers, the young starting out in life and the old who have seen life and its troubles.

This national dialogue, the media - both print and electronic - should help facilitate. To do this the media and media workers must be allowed to work in an atmosphere of freedom. There must not be any threats of physical violence against them.

Communicators must be committed to searching for the truth and the truth alone while respecting the dignity and integrity of every man, woman and child, and no one must hinder them in their task. Media must serve society as a whole, not just the narrow interests of the ruling party and government of the day or of the business sector alone. We need genuinely public broadcasting, complemented by competing broadcasters speaking for different groups in society. We therefore call upon all the media to help in the nation building process and not to fan violence in their coverage of events.

The poor health delivery system is seriously affecting the majority of our people who are already suffering from the harsh economic environment. Our health institutions cannot even procure some essential drugs. We therefore urge our government to make enough financial resources available to the health sector.

The reality of HIV/Aids pandemic is adding to the misery of our families and society as a whole. This really calls for behaviour change in our attitude towards morality and for Christian principles of abstinence before marriage and faithfulness in marriage to be observed. In the present situation of social strife, political stalemate and economic decline, we should not lose hope. We should have Hope in God and in the gifts and talents he has given us. During this Easter season we celebrate that Jesus Christ conquered sin and death. This is our source of hope that we too, through his power, will overcome the problems and challenges that face the nation now. The first thing is that each Zimbabwean should seriously examine himself or herself and honestly admit to themselves what they contribute to the present situation of insecurity and fear. The will to build Zimbabwe for all of us is still there, and God who gave us victory in the past is still present and with us. It is through dialogue, tolerance and confidence in the power of God that we will come to build this nation as a family.

In unity we freed ourselves and today once more we need that unity: unity of purpose and vision, in spite of different ideas of how best to achieve our goal. This means we should be ready and willing to accommodate different views and really tolerate different viewpoints. There is no single Zimbabwean with the monopoly of truth. We need each person's contribution in order to really build up a true Zimbabwe. No person should be excluded from positively making a meaningful contribution to nation building. Let our common enemy be poverty, disease and ignorance, not fellow citizens. Let us unite our efforts to defeat those enemies and we shall earn our rightful place in the family of nations. We, the Catholic Bishops of Zimbabwe, urge the government, the private sector and indeed all the people of Zimbabwe to make every effort to foster this culture of tolerance and to work for unity to rebuild our nation. St. Paul tells us that Christ's church is a single body with many parts (1.Cor.12:12f). Similarly as a nation we are one body with many parts, therefore whatever one part does affects the whole.

+ Patrick F. Chakaipa, Archbishop of Harare
+ Pius A. V. Ncube, Archbishop of Bulawayo
+ Alexio C. Muchabaiwa, Bishop of Mutare (ZCBC President)
+ Francis Mugadzi, Bishop of Gweru
+ Helmut Reckter SJ, Bishop of Chinhoyi
+ Michael D.Bhasera,Bishop of Masvingo (ZCBC Vice President)
+ Robert C. Ndlovu, Bishop of Hwange
+ Angel Floro SMI, Bishop of Gokwe
+ Patrick M. Mutume, Auxiliary Bishop of Mutare


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