Bishops of Zimbabwe pastoral letter
Pastoral Letter on A Proposed National Agenda for Restoration and Peace in Zimbabwe Following the July 2013 National Elections, issued on 3 December 2013 by the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference.
In our Pastoral Letter published in March 2013 before the 31 July 2013 national elections, we called upon all Christians and people of goodwill in Zimbabwe to commit themselves to ‘promoting peace in Zimbabwe and overcome the culture of intolerance, intimidation and political violence.’
Soon after the election results were announced, we congratulated all Zimbabweans for conducting a generally and relatively peaceful poll during which reported incidents of intimidation, intolerance and violence were minimal compared to the last poll in 2008.
We write this Pastoral Letter three months after the national elections were conducted, when the dust from those elections has settled down somewhat. From where we stand as shepherds in God’s vineyard, we are compelled to observe that the elections have left Zimbabweans more polarized than they were before and during the years of the Inclusive Government (2009 – 2013).
The political fault lines and their impact on all aspects of the lives of Zimbabweans are set not only to deepen, but also to stand in the way of progress and ultimately in the way of peace.
We note with apprehension that three months after the dust from the elections began to settle down, there are no visible prospects for improvement in the spheres of life in Zimbabwe that cry for restoration to give people hope for a better life. These spheres include:
1. Full re-engagement with the international community
2. Restoration of the national economy, particularly the manufacturing sector
3. Restoration of the public services sector which includes health, education, water, sanitation, transport and energy
4. Restoration of Zimbabwe’s historical status as the bread basket of the Southern Africa region with guaranteed food security for her people
The need to create viable platforms to address effectively the areas outlined above for the benefit of our people and country cannot be overemphasized.
Our industrial sites carry the appearance of ghost towns because the once-vibrant manufacturing sector is now largely moribund. The dignity of our people has been severely eroded as they have become reduced to sellers of cheap goods and products at street corners in our cities in order to survive.
Daily water and power cuts, shortage of medicines, equipment and professional personnel in our hospitals, chaos and carnage on our roads, raw sewage flowing in the streets of our towns and cities – the list of what reduces us as a people, our dignity and our hope for a better life is long.
And yet, it need not be like this.
Zimbabwe is blessed with abundant natural resources and resilient, God-fearing and highly skilled people.
This abundance in resources, material and human, gives us encouragement and hope that Zimbabweans can transform this unsatisfactory situation and in its place create a better life for all Zimbabweans.
What it takes to realize these aspirations of our people and country is political will at all levels of our society and institutions to work towards the achievement of the common good, political will to transcend differences in order for all Zimbabweans to work together as one family, all leading to sustainable peace in our nation.
Agenda for restoration and Sustainable Peace
In the Discussion Document, The Zimbabwe We Want (2006), the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference (ZCBC), the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe (EFZ) and the Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC) all spoke as one voice of the Church in Zimbabwe on, among other issues, the restoration of Zimbabwe’s economy and wellbeing as follows:
‘As a Church we commit ourselves to utilize our global Church network throughout the world, particularly those related to our development partners to lobby their governments and other institutions to support Zimbabwe in the reconstruction efforts through the cancellation of our international debt and making generous grants towards the reconstruction of our economy.
This will only be possible if as Zimbabweans we can speak with one voice, hence this initiative by the Church to bring about reconciliation and unite our nation.’ The Zimbabwe We Want (5.4.7, p.29)
This, we argued, would help build bridges with the international community and help in the reconstruction of our economy and the well being of our people.
We believe this call for Zimbabweans to speak with one voice as the first step towards the restoration of Zimbabwe is as true today as it was seven years ago when the Church in Zimbabwe made this call. Zimbabweans, and that includes the politicians and political parties among us, must transcend their differences and work together for the common good of our country.
Although the political experiment that was the inclusive government (2009 – 2013) has been criticised in some quarters, it would be hard to deny that some visible progress was made to improve the lot of our people, particularly the lot of the poor in our society who were making frequent and regular visits to neighbouring countries to buy basics for survival as shops in our country were empty.
What made this improvement possible was the fact that Zimbabweans, including the political parties, worked together for the common good.
We believe that the shortcomings that attended this political experiment emanated from the fact that it was structured solely on political parties which began to compete for political advantage given the fact that the life of the inclusive government was understood from the beginning to be a temporary marriage of convenience foisted on the political parties by our neighbours in the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) following the disputed elections of 2008.
That political experiment also demonstrated that the winner-take-all political arrangement will not benefit Zimbabwe and her people at this stage of our political development. Neither the Government, the Opposition nor any one of us alone can achieve the restoration that our country and people so sorely need.
In his message, Blessed are the Peacemakers (January, 2013), Pope Benedict XVI urged that we all become true peacemakers. ‘True peacemakers,’ he said, ‘are those who love, defend and promote human life in all its dimensions, personal, communitarian and transcendent. Life in its fullness is the height of peace.’ Pope Benedict XVI proceeds to outline what we believe is the message Zimbabwe needs most from this moment on:
‘In order to emerge from the present financial and economic crisis – which has engendered ever greater inequalities – we need people, groups, and institutions which will promote life by fostering human creativity, in order to draw from the crisis itself an opportunity for discernment and for a new economic model.
The predominant model of recent decades called for seeking maximum profit and consumption, on the basis of an individualistic and selfish mindset, aimed at considering individuals solely in terms of their ability to meet the demands of competitiveness.
Yet, from another standpoint, true and lasting success is attained through the gift of ourselves, our intellectual abilities and our entrepreneurial skills, since a ‘liveable’ or truly human economic development requires the principle of gratuitousness as an expression of fraternity and the logic of gift.
Concretely, in economic activity, peacemakers are those who establish bonds of fairness with their colleagues, workers, clients and consumers. They engage in economic activity for the sake of the common good and they experience this commitment as something transcending self-interest, for the benefit of present and future generations. Thus they work not only for themselves, but also to ensure for others a future and a dignified employment.’ (Pope Benedict XVI, Blessed are the Peacemakers)
Pope Benedict XVI calls for a ‘new economic model’ in which individuals and institutions are inspired by ‘the principle of gratuitousness, of fraternity’ to give ‘of themselves, their intellectual abilities and their entrepreneurial skills,’ their ‘creativity,’ to help their countries, communities to ’emerge from the current financial and economic crisis.’
Jesus said: ‘I came that they may have life, and have live abundantly’ (John 10:10). The Contemporary English Version calls it ‘life to the fullest.’
We in Zimbabwe can have ‘life to the fullest’ if we heed the words of Pope Benedict XVI as inspired by the Apostle John and put in place ‘a new economic model’ across all sectors of our economy, an economic model that is inclusive, that draws from the abundant pool of expertise that we are blessed with among our people and that transcends political and any other boundaries.
We have experts in all the areas of greatest need in our economy:
•Full re-engagement with the international community
•National economic transformation (land, agriculture, manufacturing, mining, tourism, etc)
•Social Services (health, water, sanitation, transport, energy, housing, education, food security, national reconciliation, etc)
We urge that task teams of experts, who, according to Pope Benedict XVI, will use their ‘human creativity,’ be set up to address each of these areas. A charter to guide the appointment and working modalities of the task teams should be drawn up and agreed with, among others, provisions that the best qualified experts be invited to serve on these task teams irrespective of their political, religious or any other persuasion and that they remain apolitical/non-partisan.
This is the Agenda for Zimbabwe’s restoration that we urge the Government, the Opposition and all of us as Zimbabweans to embrace. As we stated above, neither the Government, the Opposition nor any one of us can, alone, achieve Zimbabwe’s restoration and wellbeing of our people.
This is the ‘mutual collaboration’ that Pope John XXIII calls us to embrace in Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth, Encyclical on Establishing Universal Peace in Truth, Justice and Liberty of 11 April 1963), in which each individual will make ‘a wholehearted contribution.’ We nevertheless present this only as a proposal cognisant of the fact that ‘Pacem in Terris did not intend to state that it is the task of the Church to give concrete pointers on subjects that, in their complexity, must be left to free discussion.
On political, economic and social matters it is not for dogma to indicate the practical solutions, but rather for dialogue, listening, patience, respect for the other, sincerity and also willingness to rethink one’s own opinion’ (Pope Francis, ZENIT, Article 38285/October 2013).
It is appropriate and opportune that we make this call for a new economic model for Zimbabwe and Zimbabweans in the year that the Church has designated the Year of Faith because we believe that if we all pray to the Lord for conversion and belief in our hearts and observe the principles of fraternity and gratuitousness enjoined upon us by Pope Benedict XVI, the new model can work and the Lord will, as he promised, heal our land.
As we said at the beginning of this Pastoral Letter, we are writing three months after the national elections were conducted, when the dust from those elections has settled down somewhat but unfortunately new dust is rising. We pray that the season of Advent and Christmas, the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ as one of us, may help us address all areas of our greatest need.
MERRY CHRISTMAS TO YOU ALL AND HAPPY 2014