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Zim Catholic priests slam govt over rights abuses, economic ruin

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By Alois Vinga


CATHOLIC bishops in Zimbabwe have accused government of allegedly putting the citizens’ patience to test through a deepening economic crisis coupled with recent rights abuses against anti-poverty protesters.

In their pastoral letter posted through the church’s news agency recently, the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference (ZCBC) expressed deep concerns over the deteriorating situation in the country.

“Zimbabwe is burning; its economy is hurting; its people are suffering,” said the clergy, adding, “Many ordinary Zimbabweans express disappointment that hoped-for changes are yet to be felt, inaccess to employment, cash and broad stakeholder consultations.

“Our quasi currency, operating with multiple exchange rates, is fueling a national crisis.”

The sentiments by the catholic priests follow tragic events of last week in which government unleashed armed forces to quell wild disturbances over recent fuel price increases and rising poverty levels in the country.

Government’s rights body reported 8 civilian deaths through gunshots by security forces while NGOs put the toll at 12.

Many more were hospitalised for gunshot injuries while there have been complaints of rape by the military.

The Catholic Bishops bemoaned the country’s failure to break from its bitter past under Robert Mugabe, who was ousted as President November 2017.

“We had hoped for good change after November 2017, but we have witnessed with sadness and concern [the] government’s piecemeal and knee-jerk reaction to the worsening economic situation, exemplified by the unilateral imposition of 2 percent tax on the country’s major money-transfer and payment system and by the hefty increase in fuel prices on 12 January 2019, the immediate cause of the violent demonstrations and riots that brought Zimbabwe’s major cities and rural trading centres into complete lockdown,” said the priests.

ZCBC said they were “saddened and concerned” by government’s failure to stabilise the economy, coupled with violent riots that rocked the country last week, leading to authorities tripping down the internet.

“Once more the resilience and resolve of Zimbabweans is being put to test,” the Bishops said while challenging authorities to bring down the infrastructure of dictatorship.

“We do not need a strong man or woman but strong institutions. We need to develop a new and challenging kind of politics, a new cooperation and harmony based on reasoned argument, generous compromise and respectful toleration,” they said.

The Catholic Bishops Friday met Vice President Constantino Chiwenga to register their concerns over the country’s deteriorating situation.