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Zimbabwe’s Church Leaders Welcome Global Solidarity, Appeal for Dialogue amid Crisis

ZimbabweanLivesMatter online campaign

Church leaders in Zimbabwe have acknowledged with appreciation messages of solidarity from across the globe through the hashtag #ZimbabweanLivesMatter following recent demonstrations against brutality and violence in their country.

The religious leaders under the Zimbabwe Heads of Christian Denominations (ZHOCD) are calling for a comprehensive national dialogue to address the crisis in the Southern African nation.

A government crackdown on peaceful protesters and the arrests of several high profile opposition figures, activists, journalists and writers in recent weeks inspired the online campaign driven by the Twitter hashtag #ZimbabweanLivesMatter.

In their August 8 statement, ZHOCD members “welcome the growing global solidarity for Zimbabwe characterized by the social media #ZimbabweanLivesMatter and at a regional level by the sending of the envoy by the South African President and the Chairman of the African Union, President Cyril Ramaphosa.” 

“Our hope is that the South African envoy and the whole global solidarity will catalyze the beginning of such a truthful, loving and mutually inclusive national dialogue process,” they further say in their one-page statement obtained by ACI Africa.

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They add, “Let such global solidarity awaken the convergence of the agency to build the Zimbabwe We Want.”

According to Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), at least 60 people were arrested following a planned mass demonstration against President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government on July 31, the Guardian reported.

On August 6, South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa sent special envoys to Zimbabwe in a bid to “identify possible ways in which South Africa can assist Zimbabwe.”

Zimbabwe's opposition and rights groups have criticized what they call a “snub” by the South African envoys sent to investigate human rights abuses. On August 10, the three-member delegation met with Zimbabwe’s president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, at the State House, and left without meeting the opposition or rights activists.

President Mnangagwa has vowed to overcome the attempts by “a few rogue Zimbabweans” to destabilize the country in “league with foreign detractors.”

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In their August 8 statement titled, “Churches’ Appreciation of Global Solidarity,” members of ZHOCD denounce the “arrest and persecution of the journalists and the civil activists who amplified and detailed the depth of corruption.”

“The continued persecution of activists, some of whom have been tortured and treated inhumanely while others are still in hiding for fear of similar treatment, is a cause for serious concern,” the Church leaders say.

They add, “The violent presence and involvement of the army in the sphere that must be taken care of by the police is also a worrying development since the beginning of the new dispensation in November 2017.” 

The members of ZHOCD who are drawn from the leadership of various Christian denominations including the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference (ZCBC), the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe (EFZ), the Union for the Development of Apostolic Churches in Zimbabwe Africa (UDACIZA) and the Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC) also highlight some of the challenges facing the Southern African nation.

“The country suffers from severe food shortages with almost half the population in need of food,” ZHOCD members say and add, “This situation is only going to intensify between now and March 2021 before the next harvest. The growing levels of malnutrition amongst children can leave permanent damage to their development if the situation is not arrested.”

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The Church leaders are also concerned about alleged corruption in the Ministry of Health, which is hampering the country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The high-levels of corruption resulting in the expulsion of the Minister of Health has meant that the resources meant for COVID-19 have not been channeled to where they are needed,” the Church leaders say in their 6-point statement.

They further note that the lockdown placed as part of the country’s efforts to combat COVID-19 “has led to the collapse of health, education and other social services which has in turn increased the burden on the poor and other vulnerable groups in society.” 

According to the Church leaders, these challenges are manifestations of the “inadequate humanitarian preparedness, failure to find mutually acceptable closure of the hurts of the past, failure of the entrenchment of constitutionalism and the rule of law, the breakdown of social contract characterized by cartel-controlled and corruption-infested exclusive economy and continued international isolation of Zimbabwe.”

As a way forward, the Leaders call for “a broad-based comprehensive national dialogue not only among political actors, but one that includes all sectors of society.”

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Such national dialogue, ZHOCD members say, will lead the country to a “Comprehensive National Settlement to all these issues.”

They underscore the need for a “national vision that would help the nation to entrench constitutionalism, restore relationships through reconciliation based on truth-telling, and establish justice on the basis of equitable access to the national wealth.”