Involved in a delicate role of mediation, in order to ease the economic and ethnic tensions that plague their country, the Catholic bishops of Zimbabwe have been protesting for several weeks against the repressive and authoritarian measures of the ruling party.
In Zimbabwe, difficulties are growing between the Church and the authoritarian regime of President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
On Saturday August 15, 2020, Minister of Information Monica Mutsvangwa accused the Church - in the person of Archbishop Robert Ndlovu, Archbishop of Harare and President of the Zimbabwe Bishops’ Conference (ZCBC) - of stoking conflicts between ethnic groups and leading Catholics towards “a Rwandan-type genocide.”
Ms. Mutsvangwa again accused Bishop Ndlovu of wanting to “stir up the psychosis of social victimization” among the Ndebele, an ethnic minority to which Bishop Ndlovu belongs, by seeking to make “collectively guilty” the Shona - a majority group to which President Mnangagwa belongs.
The indictment refers to Gukurahundi - a Shona term which translates to “the early rain that washes the grass before the spring rains.” This was a series of massacres of Ndebele civilians carried out by the army of the former president of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe of the Shona ethnic group, between 1983 and 1987.
On August 16, a pastoral letter from the ZCBC urging the Harare authorities to assume their responsibilities in the face of the country’s dramatic economic and health crisis was read in all parishes.
The tension escalated further in early October 2020, due to a wave of repression unleashed by those in power against their opponents.
“They bring bloodshed, they kill. Instead of freedom, they bring prison. They bring violence and imprison all who oppose them. The only thing they know is violence,” said Bishop Raymond Tapiwa Mupandasekwa, Bishop of Chinhoyi.
The prelate also sharply criticized a recent decree by the vice-president, Constantino Chiwenga, aimed at forcibly recruiting into the ranks of the army, newly graduated medical students, on pain of being deprived of practicing in public health establishments.
The measure aims to suppress the growing movement of discontent among health personnel who denounce the inability of the State to manage health issues within hospitals, especially those related to the Covid-19 epidemic: there are more 5,000 cases in a population of about 15 million inhabitants.
For more than ten years, Zimbabwe has been plunged into a serious economic crisis, marked by hyperinflation initiated by former President Robert Mugabe, which has reached 837% today—not to mention the ethnic conflicts that also plague the country.