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Bishops decry oppression amid economic desolation



THE Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference has called for an end to political detentions and high-level corruption while decrying the deteriorating socio-economic situation in the country ahead of the 2023 elections.


In a hard-hitting pastoral letter titled Breaking the Unjust Fetters released this week, the bishops tore into the ongoing political violence perpetrated by suspected ruling party members since the beginning of the year. The recent public flogging of elderly CCC supporters in Murewa by Zanu PF thugs has sparked an uproar.

“. . . a General Election, should never be preceded by violence. Because it is a time of communal discernment about the kind of leadership we want, and where we wish to go as a nation, a General Election should never be in a context of intimidation and incarceration. We are going towards the General Elections with some people incarcerated for expressing their views,” read the letter.

In addition to being subjected to political violence, opposition members have been arrested and detained. The cases involving embattled Zengeza West MP, Job Sikhala, who has been in custody for eight months now, and the recent arrest of Mkoba legislator and senior CCC official Amos Chibaya and Budiriro MP Costa Machingauta alongside 24 party members have cast a dark shadow over the elections.

“We can tolerate political differences and we can learn from each other what to add to our own political vision and how to market it without the shedding of blood. Violence should never be a tool employed in politics. As Pope Francis reminded us, “The instrument of politics is closeness, it is about confronting problems, understanding them . . . it is about something we have forgotten how to do: persuasion,” they added.

The Catholic bishops also raised concern over socio-economic inequalities which have seen the poor keep getting poorer, because of excessive corruption by government officials and a few elites.

“The altruistic approach that gave us the aforementioned successes seemingly has been aborted and replaced by a raw form of individualism seeking nothing but self-aggrandizement through corruption. What is most worrisome is that such rampant corruption by known players is not being nipped in the bud by the responsible offices but is seemingly supported by those in power by their silence and inaction. The Auditor-General’s report of 2021 makes for painful reading as it confirms total disregard for structures of accountability.  She writes that some ministries have not made their documents available for audit despite the fact that this is a requirement. Where there is no transparency and no accountability, we can conclude that there is corruption at a large scale. The chairperson of the Anti-Corruption Commission admitted in 2019 that the commission could do very little because the courts were corrupt,” read the letter.

“When it comes to corruption, Pope Francis’ observation is apt. In 2015, the Holy Father speaking about corruption had this to say, Corruption is something which creeps in. It’s like sugar: it’s sweet. We like it, it goes down easily. And then? We get sick, with all that easy sugar we end up as diabetics, and our country becomes diabetic! Whenever we take a bribe, or pocket a kickback, we destroy our heart, we destroy our personality, we destroy our country . . . if you do not want corruption in your life, in your country, then start (opposing it) now! Corruption is not the way to life. It is a path which leads to death,” they added.
Hardest hit by the economic hardships are low-income earners who have had to bear the brunt of economic failures.

“Looking at where we are, we see that our people are witnesses and worse, victims of abject poverty and destitution. We live with these and there doesn’t seem to be an exodus, a way out of this desperation, where people are without work, and those with work are paid never enough to feed themselves and look after their families. We see a growing population on the streets living on begging. We see a very high percentage of young people of school-going age not going to school and a good number of them now being employed, by untouchable drug lords, to sell drugs and killing themselves and many others in the process. We also see that our people are being used as pawns in the power game,” they said.

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