Tendai Rupapa Senior Reporter
Churches in Zimbabwe have urged Western countries to consider removing crippling sanctions imposed on the country, saying the ushering in of the new dispensation has opened democratic space for all citizens and political players.
President Mnangagwa has been on a continental offensive to lobby for the removal of the illegal sanctions and was in Guinea Conakry last week on the same mission.
Faith for the Nation Campaign led by Reverend Andrew Wutawunashe partnered with National Elders Forum headed by Rev Felix Mukonowengwe to launch the Zimbabwe Unity and Sanctions Relief Initiative (ZUSRI), calling for the unconditional removal of the sanctions.
ZUSRI is a churches’ platform for nation building and the initiative’s petition campaign is targeting one million signatures.
In his address, Rev Wutawunashe said the new dispensation brought about change.
“We cannot deny it, the atmosphere has changed,” he said. “There is now freedom of speech and expression in this country, people can now openly talk and some actually scold the President.
“I have realised that this is all because of freedoms in this country. The atmosphere has changed, the playing field has changed, hence there is no need for inhumane methods like sanctions.
“The most direct and devastating effect of these sanctions has thus been catastrophic unemployment levels, poverty, extreme damage to health and other services and a general crippling economic stagnation all of which have burdened and oppressed the poor.
“This has also amounted to a sustained economic poison chalice consisting of starvation of loans and vital lines of credit, flight of capital, closure of meaningful businesses and industries, departure of NGOs and other organisations.”
Rev Wutawunashe said the mission of ZUSRI was to spearhead a campaign to lobby and appeal to the Western countries to remove the illegal sanctions.
He pleaded with the Western countries to give Zimbabwe room to rebuild its economy.
“The main mission of this God-driven compassionate initiative is to spearhead a determined campaign to lobby and appeal to the Western powers who are behind these sanctions to withdraw these inhumane measures which are putting a purposeless, yet destructive burden on the poor of our nation,” said Rev Wutawunashe.
“Remove this yoke of sanctions from the neck of our poor struggling people and give us room to rebuild our nation and economy,” he said.
“We challenge all political parties and politicians to be openly signatories of the Zimbabwe sanctions relief petition. This is about the survival of our people, not about politics. As the churches and nation’s elders, together with the diverse stakeholders who are partnering with us in this initiative, we call upon all our politicians to discard the call for sanctions as a weapon of domestic political leverage.
“ZUSRI does not proceed from a political or partisan perspective, but from compassion for our people. We cannot change our nation or settle our disputes by cannibalising our poor and by economically suicide bombing our own nation.
“History and God will judge us severely if this continues.
Rev Mukonowengwe said: “We have responsibility to convince our constituencies, the citizenry, political parties, civic society organisations, Africa, the West and the entire world that sanctions must be removed forthwith.
“This call must be born from a united people of Zimbabwe who have suffered the bondage of these sanctions. Together we need to make a clarion call against sanctions. Together we stand, divided we fall. As Zimbabweans let us make a united, loud and clear call against sanctions.”
The National Elders’ Forum leader said in Zambia churches took a leading role in spearheading the cancellation of the country’s debt and it worked.
He said their initiative would succeed, adding that they were confident that it would bear fruit.
Various church leaders, including Father Fidelis Mukonori, members of the clergy, representatives of political parties and traditional leaders attended the launch.
It ran under the theme “A call to unburden a struggling nation” which was derived from a Bible verse Isaiah 58 vs 6, which says “Undo the heavy burdens, let the oppressed go free and break every yoke.”