Zimbabwe’s Catholic bishops have issued a pastoral letter criticising corruption and the government’s “unprecedented” crackdown on dissent in the country.
The letter, read out at Catholic churches on Sunday, was condemned by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration as an “evil message” that could fuel a “Rwanda-type genocide”.
The bishops’ conference’s letter argued that the country had fallen into a “multi-layered crisis of the convergence of economic collapse, deepening poverty, food insecurity, corruption and human rights abuses among other crises in urgent need of resolution.”
The bishops criticised the government for suppressing demonstrations which express the “growing frustration and aggravation caused by the conditions that the majority of Zimbabweans find themselves in.”
The comments follow a recent wave of arrests of government critics, with over 20 people detained on July 31 and later charged for publicly protesting state corruption and an economic crisis which has seen inflation soar to over 800 per cent.
“Fear runs down the spine of many of our people today. The crackdown on dissent is unprecedented,” the bishops added. “Is this the Zimbabwe we want? To have a different opinion does not mean to be an enemy.”
The government dismissed the bishops’ allegations, with Information Secretary Nick Mangwana accusing the bishops’ conference of trying to “manufacture crises”.
“There is no crisis, political or otherwise,” he said. “Zimbabwe, like most countries in the world, is currently grappling with challenges attendant to illegal sanctions, drought and the coronavirus pandemic.”
Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa took particular aim at the president of the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Robert Ndlovu of Harare, whom she described as “genocidal and evil-minded”.
She said that Archbishop Ndlovu’s “transgressions acquire a geopolitical dimension as the chief priest of the agenda of regime change that is the hallmark of the post-imperial major Western powers for the last two decades.”
The opposition MDC Alliance called the comments “incendiary hate speech”, adding that the singling out of Archbishop Ndlovu, who is from the Ndebele ethnic group, was a form of tribal “discrimination” that risked reviving Zimbabwe’s “history of genocide”.
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