CHURCH leaders in Zimbabwe have called on the international community to lift economic sanctions against the country, to ease the burden on ordinary Zimbabwean citizens. They also announced plans to host a National Convention later this year to “seek practical solutions” to the country’s continuing crisis.
A statement issued by the Zimbabwe Heads of Christian Denominations (ZHOCD), after a meeting in Bulawayo last week, said: “Church leaders are disheartened as they witness the heavy toll of ongoing fuel shortages, price hikes, heavy taxation, and currency crisis. The desperate cries of struggling Zimbabwean families, as they battle to put food on the table and children in school, seek healthcare for the ill, make a living in difficult economic conditions, and cope with life’s struggles in a context of austerities, require urgent attention.”
The ZHOCD consists of the Zimbabwean Council of Churches (ZCC), the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference, the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe, and the Union for the Development of Apostolic Churches in Zimbabwe Africa.
The statement continued: “We appeal to the International Community for respectful solidarity and accompaniment as we pursue a locally driven process. Further, we implore you to remove sanctions even as we call upon our own government to comply with International standards and norms of human rights, democracy and good governance.”
It reiterated the call made in January by the Anglican Bishop of Harare, the Rt Revd Dr Farai Mutamiri, that sanctions should be lifted because “they are hurting the ordinary citizens of Zimbabwe” (News, 25 January).
The statement was sent to the President, Emmerson Mnangagwa, and the leader of the opposition, Nelson Chamisa.
Eighteen months after the former President Robert Mugabe was toppled after 37 years (News, 24 November 2017), the economic woes facing the country continue unabated, and there are reports of human-rights abuses.
On Monday, it was announced that the capital, Harare, experienced up to eight hours of electricity power outages a day owing to the falling water levels in the Kariba Dam. Analysts fear that it will have a severe impact on industry and the already strained economy.
The Churches in Zimbabwe hope to act as a broker to guide the nation to recovery. The general secretary of the ZCC, the Revd Dr Kenneth Mtata, said on Wednesday morningL “The nation is in such a state. There is a trust deficit that without a broad and comprehensive national dialogue, no solution will produce any meaningful change. The envisaged National Convention is intended to kick-start that.”
The ZHOCD said that an inclusive National Convention will be convened by the Churches. They are instructing their technical teams to start preparation for the convention, which will probably be held in September.
The ZHOCD statement also said that it had instructed their technical teams “to establish three Ecumenical Commissions on National Healing and Reconciliation; Economic Justice; and Constitutional Democracy to coordinate the preparations towards the upcoming National Convention and the on-going work of the National Dialogue Process”.