Pastoral Statement of the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference on current affairs in the country
Published on 11 September 2019
Dear sisters and brothers in Christ, all men and women of good will,
(1) On the morning of Friday 6 September 2019, we woke up to the sad news of the death of former President of Zimbabwe, Robert Gabriel Mugabe. We extend our condolences to his immediate and extended family, the government of Zimbabwe and all the bereaved. May his soul rest in eternal peace.
The End Does Not Justify the Means
(2) As the day unfolded on Friday 6 September 2019, condolence messages began to pour in highlighting the many good qualities of the late former President. Some dwelt on his broad education and others on his achievements from the liberation struggle to State House as a principled person, liberator, his empowerment of the black majority, pan-Africanist, etc. We, the Bishops of the Catholic Church in Zimbabwe, agree with most of these attributes but they also raise a key question, ‘What went wrong?’ The intentions and the objectives were good but the manner of achieving them raised a number of ethical questions. This is where we, as a country, went wrong and continue to go wrong to this day. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches as follows:
“1757 The object, the intention, and the circumstances make up the three “sources” of the morality of human acts.
- The object chosen morally specifies the act of willing accordingly as reason recognizes and judges it good or evil.
- “An evil action cannot be justified by reference to a good intention” (cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Dec. praec. 6). The end does not justify the means.
- A morally good act requires the goodness of its object, of its end, and of its circumstances together.
- There are concrete acts that it is always wrong to choose, because their choice entails a disorder of the will, i.e., a moral evil. One may not do evil so that good may result from it.”
(3) The liberation struggle was a last resort, after all attempts at dialogue and inclusion had failed. Violence can never be the first option. “ZANU haizombofa yakatsveta zvombo pasi” (ZANU will never lay down arms), as the popular saying we hear so often goes, should not mean we resort to arms and violence as the first option in any situation of conflict including the announcements for demonstrations. We believe engagement and dialogue will bring about the desired transformation of our nation. We are deeply concerned about the reported nocturnal visits by unknown masked men, beatings, torture, sexual assaults, abductions, harassment of dissenting voices and violent repression of demonstrations by Police. Such acts contradict the positive narrative of Zimbabwe’s Second Republic, have no place in a democratic society and there should be no impunity for those who commit these crimes. The end, in this case the purported peace, does not justify the means.
(4) The main purpose of sanctions and embargoes is to influence the behaviour of the
target country’s government, individuals or groups in the hope that will improve the situation in that country. Zimbabwe has endured the burden of sanctions for long. The impact of the adverse effects of sanctions is still being studied but over the past twenty years, given the number of people who have died from lack of adequate medicines, food, maternal deaths, etc., one can only conclude that the impact has been devastating. As an integral part of the comprehensive and inclusive dialogue we advocate for our country as Bishops of the Catholic Church, Zimbabweans, particularly our leaders, should address the imperatives that spawned sanctions on our country in the first place and genuinely implement reforms that the international community is calling for and to which our Government has expressed commitment. The common good and welfare of our people should spur our leaders to go beyond politicking and belligerence and thus give credence to Government’s call for reengagement, re-engagement which should in the first instance be experienced broadly among ourselves as Zimbabweans and in the second instance, as a united people, with the international community.
Corruption has greatly exacerbated the impact of sanctions on our country. Let us all unite to fight corruption, which is robing our nation of its future.
(5) One wonders for how long our land must remain in dispute. Sanctions were mainly imposed because of the fast-track land reforms that were done in Zimbabwe, not because the main political parties do not get along, etc. All the stakeholders, both local and international, need to speak the truth in charity, address the real issues and not hide behind a finger.
In the Ecumenical Document, The Zimbabwe We Want, we called for the finalization of the land question and made some recommendations saying:
“. . . the land question has been the most emotive national question
that has left our nation highly polarised. Now is the time to galvanize all our energies to bring finality to this vexatious issue in a manner that heals the wounds of the past . . . years. Now also is the time for the Government to show magnanimity by extending its hand in reaching out to all its citizens, regardless of political affiliation, race, gender or ethnicity to seek consensus on the way forward.
As a start, there is general recognition that the current reforms are irreversible but what is required is developing a national consensus on how best to address the outstanding issues and correct the imperfections in the land redistribution process to the benefit of all citizens who want to build their future on the land as well as to the benefit of our national economy. Our vision ought to be guided by the principle that there should be no winners and losers but rather we should all come out of this experience as winners.” (The Zimbabwe We Want: 2006). Zimbabwe needs a broad inclusive dialogue to resolve its historical contentious issues. The Churches are prepared to mediate as impartial and honest brokers.
(6) We have also witnessed xenophobic attacks in South Africa in recent times. One can understand the plight of the poor in South Africa in the same way one understands the plight of the poor all over the African continent. However, to them we also say, ‘The end does not justify the means.’ Xenophobic attacks on fellow Africans are not the answer. Spurred by a variety of reasons, among them economic and political security, immigration is as old as the history of mankind. We urge those inclined towards Xenophobia in South Africa and elsewhere to heed God’s call through the Prophet Jeremiah when he says:
“Thus says the Lord: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien… nor shed innocent blood in this place” (Jeremiah 22:3)
And to be reminded as the Israelites were reminded in the book of Exodus: “You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt…” (Exodus 22: 21-22)
(7) In 2013 Zimbabwe produced a National Constitution that received the approval of all Zimbabweans, an indicator that the Constitution mirrors the aggregated will and shared aspiration of the people of Zimbabwe. We should all commit to abiding by the Constitution of Zimbabwe, rule of law, freedom of speech and protection of human rights. Our
Constitution and our laws provide us with the means of achieving our national goals without resorting to any form of violence. Never again should our good intentions be undermined by bad execution when we have all the legal tools to realize the Zimbabwe We All Want.
(8) We therefore request all Zimbabweans to turn their swords into ploughshares and unite in building the Zimbabwe we all want. We particularly request:
- Security Forces to refrain from heavy handedness in restraining unarmed civilians;
- The Zimbabwe Republic Police to investigate all cases of torture, abductions and wanton beatings and bring the perpetrators to trial;
- The Executive and Legislature to enforce, supervise and oversee impartial implementation of the Constitution;
- The Zimbabwean government to listen to and address the real needs and grievances of people. The use of force to suppress dissent is unconstitutional and unsustainable;
- We call on all leaders to stop corruption and call on all people to expose corrupt practices at every place. Corruption may have destroyed the country even more than sanctions.
- The Zimbabwe Heads of Christian Denominations (ZHOCD) and other Churches to convene and facilitate National Days of Prayer. Our Nation needs God.
We call for genuine dialogue at various levels of society, apart from the political dialogue. It is only in genuine meeting of hearts that we can tolerate each other and have a lasting solution to our problems. Dialogue is the only way to realize our good intentions. We need as in 2008 a political dialogue which will settle the impasse that has reduced our country to two warring camps. President R. G. Mugabe has also left us a legacy of political dialogue. If he could talk to Mr. M. Tsvangirai and come to a settlement, surely the successors of these opponents, for the good of the nation, can do the same. The Churches are ready to facilitate such dialogue.
It was also the late former President, Robert Gabriel Mugabe, who launched the Zimbabwe We Want Discussion Document in 2006 at the Catholic University in Zimbabwe. We would like to conclude by asserting that, as illustrated in Zimbabwe We Want Discussion Document, we believe the need for:
- A shared national vision;
- Political tolerance;
- National healing and reconciliation;
- Implementation of the constitution;
- Eliminating corruption and
- Addressing land and economic challenges.
May the God Almighty bless the nation of Zimbabwe and grant it courage to build a Zimbabwe that is free, tolerant, peaceful, prosperous and God fearing.
God bless you all.
+Robert C. Ndlovu, Archbishop of Harare (ZCBC President)
+Alex Thomas, Archbishop of Bulawayo (ZCBC Vice President)
+Paul Horan, Bishop of Mutare (ZCBC Secretary/Treasurer)
+Michael D. Bhasera, Bishop of Masvingo & Pontifical Administrator of Gweru
+Albert Serrano, Bishop of Hwange
+Rudolf Nyandoro, Bishop of Gokwe
+Raymond Mupandasekwa, Bishop of Chinhoyi