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Zimbabwe’s Church Leaders, Politicians Realize Consultative Meeting on Country’s Crises

Church Leaders from the Zimbabwe Heads of Christian Denominations (ZHOCD) following the proceedings o the consultative meeting.

Church leaders in Zimbabwe realized their inaugural consultative meeting with those at the helm of various political parties in the country, convened to deliberate on challenges bedeviling the Southern African nation from the economic collapse to the political stalemate.

Organized by the Zimbabwe Heads of Christian Denominations (ZHOCD), the Monday, July 13 meeting “is part of a series of consultations lined up by the churches to find consensus on the current but also the long-standing challenges facing the nation,” officials of the Inter-Regional Meeting of the Bishops of Southern Africa (IMBISA) reported Thursday, July 16.

With 17 political parties represented at the July 13 meeting, the convention has been described as “a culmination of a week of extensive bilateral engagements in which even those political parties that did not attend today’s meeting gave input.” 

Members of ZHOCD and the representatives of the 17 political parties concurred that Zimbabwe “is in an emergency situation” and highlighted the various sectors in crisis.

“The current state of the health sector characterized by the failure by the government to amicably resolve the protracted strike by medical personnel did not augur well with the desperate need to prepare for the spiraling cases of COVID-19,” the parties at the July 13 meeting noted.

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The leaders who met were also concerned about the corruption scandal surrounding the procurement of COVID-19 test kits, particularly the “realization that the resources mobilized for the pandemic were not being handled in ways that instilled confidence to the public,” the July 16 IMBISA report indicates.

Earlier this month,  Zimbabwe’s Health Minister Obadiah Moyo was fired for his alleged involvement in the irregular procurement of $60million worth COVID-19 test kits. The former Minister has since been taken to court and charged with criminal abuse of office.

During the July 13 inaugural consultative meeting, there was also “a huge outcry among the participants regarding the failure to implement the constitution.”

“While some participants raised concerns on the integrity of the current constitution, there was unanimity that it was supposed to be implemented before it can be amended,” IMBISA reported. 

According to the participants at the July 13 meeting, “The failure to implement and honor the constitution had seen an increase in fear among citizens confronted by violence and many unresolved cases of abductions and systematic torture at the hands of persons alleged to be state functionaries.”

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The representatives of the political and church leadership in Zimbabwe at the meeting also highlighted the negative effects of the current economic collapse saying “it is characterized by increasing corruption cases, most of which are not being resolved satisfactorily.”

“There was general agreement that even the informal economy which had become the source of livelihoods for the majority of citizens had been destroyed, not only due to the effects of COVID-19 but because of the economic policies in which citizens were not properly consulted,” the political and religious leaders said.

The destroyed informal economy has resulted in high poverty levels in the country, marginalizing “citizens especially women and children to be able to meaningfully participate in democratic processes,” the participants at the consultative meeting further said.

“At the heart of many of the issues raised, was the failure to properly bring closure to the many hurts and human rights violations of the immediate and long-past, including, but not isolated to Gukurahundi,” IMBISA reported in reference to the 4-year strife that happened in the 1980s.

From early 1983 to late 1987, the Zimbabwe National Army carried out a series of massacres targeting the Ndebele civilians. The violence is known as the Gukurahundi massacres.  

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“Due to this wounded past, some communities feel deliberately marginalized from the national development priorities,” the political and Christian leaders have been quoted as saying, adding that “without such closure, the nation has not managed to build a shared national vision and shared values.” 

As a way forward, the political leaders who agreed that the identified issues could not be solved by a few actors observed that “the intertwined and overarching nature of these issues require an urgent, inclusive, broad-based national dialogue process involving political parties, CSO, business, the security sector, traditional leaders, and churches, among other players.”

The representatives of the political parties in Zimbabwe encouraged ZHOCD members to reach out to other stakeholders not at the meeting “towards an inclusive, comprehensive, and broad-based national dialogue process, as a matter of urgency.”