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Life is ‘unbearable’ in Zimbabwe, says Bishop of Harare

27 September 2019

Dr Farai Mutamiri speaks of economic hardship and violence


A woman fetches water from a well in Warren Park suburb, Harare, in Zimbabwe, on Tuesday

A woman fetches water from a well in Warren Park suburb, Harare, in Zimbabwe, on Tuesday

ECONOMIC hardship and the threat to human security in Zimbabwe has made life “unbearable” for its people, the Bishop of Harare, Dr Farai Mutamiri, has said.

Zimbabwe is in the grip of an economic crisis, exacerbated by a shortage of Zimbabwean dollars (RTGS). The RTGS dollar was introduced by the Zimbabwean government in June as the only legal currency (replacing the multicurrency system), and is now collapsing.

Speaking during a visit to the diocese of Rochester on Tuesday, Dr Mutamiri said that recent government policies in Zimbabwe had “brought a lot of suffering to the people, and, as a Church, we are responsible on the ground to care for people who are voiceless.

“The economic hardship is actually affecting the generality of our people in Zimbabwe. This is where the problem is. If the entire nation is going through such difficulty, there is no way that we can then shift our resources from one corner of the country to another.

“The government needs to come up with policies that may enable even those people who are still employed to get a decent salary, to get a decent living allowance, thereby creating an environment in which people can pay for themselves. We cannot continue to go out appealing to nations; as a nation we need to be self-sufficient.”

This included helping people to run their own businesses, he said. “At the moment, people cannot even afford the fees. Even if they were to produce, who is going to buy their product? At the end of the day, there is no money, and people are suffering as a result.”

The cost of living in Zimbabwe has risen, putting pressure on public services and sparking mass protests. Last week, there were at least 20 reported abductions and torture of protesters, leading to further unrest. This included the disappearance of the acting president of the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association, Dr Peter Magombeyi, more than a week ago. He reappeared last Friday, confused and injured, it was reported.

The Bishop of Harare, Dr Farai Mutamiri, at his consecration

In response to the abductions, the Zimbabwe Heads of Christian Denominations, which includes the Zimbabwe Council of Churches, released a pastoral message to President Mnangagwa last week, urging him to “seek a lasting solution to the deteriorating human security situation in the context of a deepening economic crisis”.

This included a public condemnation, and a dialogue between businesses, civil-society groups, and political parties to create a new economic vision for the country.

“This situation is deeply worrying, because none of the reported cases of abduction and torture have been successfully investigated and prosecuted. The situation is further disturbing, because there is government communication suggesting that there is a possibility of a third force. Apart from it being too coincidental that this third hand is only targeting civil-society activists and other dissenting voices, it is worrying that, after so many reported cases, not a single person has been arrested. This has put the security of citizens at the highest level of vulnerability.”

Dr Mutamiri explained: “When we heard about the abductions, it left so many questions unanswered. . . Just like any other organisation entrusted in helping this nation, we, as a Church, have to continue to make voices known, no matter how much we have talked about it in the past.”

The economic situation had not changed much from a decade ago, he said. “The only difference now is that the government is not printing cheques like they did ten years ago. Otherwise, food is available in the shops, but people cannot afford to buy it — unlike [before] when the shelves were empty.”

The main water works in the capital of Harare were temporarily shut off on Monday owing to a reported shortage of foreign currency needed to import treatment chemicals. It resumed on Tuesday, but only while newly secured chemicals last — about one week. The disrepair of water and sewer infrastructure in Harare has left two million residents without water for months, raising fears of waterborne diseases.

Speaking of his own diocese, Dr Mutamiri concluded: “Life is unbearable. It is difficult: we are having problems accessing fuel and resources to run the Church; however, we are a people of hope: we continue to hope for a better future, which is why, as a Church, we continue to endear this need to continue to pray for our leaders, to pray for a better future.”

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