By Br. Alfonce Kugwa
As Zimbabwe celebrates its 40th anniversary, the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference (ZCBC) has challenged the government to prioritize the welfare of the majority and the poor and to adhere to the country’s constitution in the promotion of rights and freedoms for the people of Zimbabwe.
In a Pastoral Letter issued on 2 April 2020, the Catholic Bishops said Zimbabwe was born out of hunger for freedom from oppression, racism, inequality, violation of basic human rights and dignity, poverty and hunger. The bishops stated that Zimbabwe’s independence ushered high hopes for the majority; hope for economic growth, political tolerance, participatory democracy, justice, peace and reconciliation and these pillars should be respected.
While the bishops acknowledge some strides made soon after independence in areas of the economy, education and health sectors, they cannot turn a blind eye on how tables turned resulting in the suffering of the masses.
“As we celebrate our forty years of independence, we acknowledge that we have made some achievements but also some things went wrong along the way. We need to acknowledge that dark chapter in our national memory, which led to the killing of many civilians in Matebeleland and parts of Midlands soon after independence. We have missed so many opportunities that God has given us. We missed the opportunity soon after independence to redefine and seek a different political path from what colonialism had chartered for us. we missed the opportunity of national healing processes based on the policy of reconciliation,” read the Pastoral Letter.
The Bishops highlighted that there was hunger for reconciliation and addressing the past hurts and injustices. According to the Bishops, The National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) gives people hope of resolving conflicts in the country but they are concerned that it has to be fully operationalised with a clear duration of its mandate for people to gain confidence in the Commission.
They also hammered on the need to address the challenges bedeviling the country’s economy leading to hopelessness especially among the youth and increased poverty among the citizens.
The bishops stated: “Zimbabwe has generally experienced a gradual economic recession that has led to closing down of industries and companies, foreign investor flight, job losses, and the decline in agricultural productivity, leading to escalation of poverty levels. A look at our health and education institutions shows a gradual and steep decline from where we started.”
With the advent of corona-virus, the Catholic Church leaders urged the government to scale up efforts to fight the pandemic considering that the country’s health sector is not in good shape, lacking the basic necessary equipment and medication to cure ordinary diseases.
“Now with the current COVID-19, there is need for outright and vigorous efforts to fight and prevent this pandemic, which if it is not carefully handled in our country, may spell doom to the whole of our nation where hospital structures are not fully equipped and ready to combat it. Our only line of defense is prevention. Let us be proactive and work hard to save lives,” they bishops said.
The bishops emphasized on the need for dialogue and called on the government to address the rot of corruption and other problems such as international isolation, collapsing infrastructure, inequitable use of resources and joblessness leading to massive emigration.