CHURCH leaders in Zimbabwe have expressed “concern and alarm” at the socio-economic crisis that is unfolding in the country, as protests against the government continue.
The President, Robert Mugabe, is accused of corruption and the mismanagement of public finances, while vast proportions of the population are unable to afford food. It was reported last month that all civil servants in Zimbabwe were being paid up to two weeks late, including soldiers, police, teachers, and nurses, leading to street and social-media protests.
In an open letter to the authorities, the heads of Zimbabwe’s Churches wrote last week that they were “saddened by the political, social, and economic meltdown, which has caused untold suffering of the masses, and the resultant civic unrest and violence that has erupted across the land, and the failure by our government and almost all political leaders to be responsive to the cries of our people”.
The letter was published on the website of the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe (EFZ). It was signed by the EFZ, Zimbabwe Council of Churches (including the Anglican diocese of central Zimbabwe), Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference, and Zimbabwe Christian Alliance, among others.
It condemns the “brutality” of the law-enforcement agencies, and the politicisation of the “genuine complaints and pains” of Zimbabweans. The situation has been exacerbated by record-breaking droughts in southern and eastern Africa (News, 24 March).
More than a quarter of the rural population (2.8 million) do not have enough to eat, and children in Zimbabwe are some of the most malnourished in the world: 90 per cent of them go hungry every day, and one-third have stunted growth as a result (News, 3 June).
The letter also urges the government to address the 80-per-cent unemployment rate; restrictions on imports and road blockages, which are deepening its national debt; and the loss of trust in the government to pay its workforces.
It calls on the Church to pray, and “speak out prophetically against any unjust system” until peace and prosperity is secured.
Meanwhile, a Baptist pastor in Zimbabwe, Evan Mawarire, who was arrested last week and charged with “plotting to bring down an entire government”, has been released.
He had placed a video on Facebook calling for an end to corruption, and urging people to wear the Zimbabwe flag in protest. “They tell me that the green [on the flag] is for the vegetation and for the crops. I don’t see any crops in my country,” he said in the footage.
His friend Tauri Nashe Manonge told Premier Christian Radio last week that Pastor Mawarire was in “good spirits”, and that, although there was still a threat of re-arrest, he continues to “embolden the people to speak against a government that has been blithely repressive and a cause of fear”.