Some civic groups in Matabeleland have written a lengthy letter pleading with President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government to stop insulting Ndebeles as well as to the international community to exercise its influence in efforts to remedy the country’s myriad problems.
Also among their pleas was for government to put a stronger resolve to end the country’s economic crisis and rights abuses.
The groups, coalescing under the Civil Society Organisations in Matabeleland banner, also wrote to several international and local organisations expressing their wishes.
“We write to you as a cross-section of civil society in Matabeleland to express our grave concern on the deteriorating human rights situation in Zimbabwe, especially with regards to the surge in torture and abductions in general and threats directed against the Ndebele ethnic group in particular and to request that your office takes immediate and robust measures to avert a humanitarian disaster and a potential repeat of genocide as well as total collapse of the rule of law and constitutional safeguards,” wrote the groups.
The civic groups accused the government of showing little or no interest in the protection of the wellbeing of minority groups.
“We have a government that practices outright and brazen tribalism. Lately, we are witnessing a well-orchestrated systemic marginalisation and discrimination of Ndebele people, general suppression and disregard of the political, civil, economic, social and cultural rights of ethnic and linguistic minorities, and an increase in a callous and targeted campaign of torture and violence against citizens in general in a way that demonstrates utter disregard of international law,” said the groups.
They copied their letter to Filipe Nyusi, Mozambique president in his capacity as SADC chair and Moussa Faki Mahamat, AU Commission Chairperson, among other regional and international stakeholders.
The organisations warned of a likelihood of a full-blown conflict if the country’s problems were to be resolved.
“There is a growing anxiety over the likelihood of a full-blown conflict, which in our view is no longer just a remote possibility anymore but a looming likelihood.
“The situation therefore needs your immediate attention and indeed your intervention.
“As civil society organisations, in our daily operations, we work on a range of issues and touch the lives of people in every way, including, but not limited to, gender and women’s empowerment, children’s rights, humanitarian aid, psychosocial support for victims of violence and torture, peace building, and advocacy on civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights. We are thus alive to the sentiments on the ground.
“Besides, our work places us as frontline workers in the struggles against poverty, hunger, and conflict and human rights abuses.
“Being on the ground makes us as civil society actors best placed to comment on the prevailing situation.
“Also, we are the first responders in human rights and humanitarian work,” said the groups in a letter they also copied to South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is also the Chairperson of the African Union.
Monica Mutsvangwa, Information Minister recently made tribal remarks following a damning pastoral letter by the Catholic Bishops condemning government for rights abuses and poor leadership.
Mutsvangwa angered many people by targeting her diatribe at a Ndebele priest, Robert Ndlovu who is just but one of the clergymen who co-authored the letter.
“The statement was not just hate speech or incitement of discrimination and hatred but borders on incitement to commit crimes against Ndebele people as a group.
“It is a fact that Archbishop Ndlovu had not signed the statement alone, but with six other non-Ndebele Catholic bishops. Neither did he sign as a Ndebele, nor on behalf of the Ndebele people but as a Bishop of the Catholic Church, for the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference.
“However, the government statement attacked him personally based on his ethnicity and the Ndebele people in the vilest language. Archbishop Ndlovu was singled out for his membership in the Ndebele people as a group and was attacked as such,” said the coalition group in a letter which was also copied Antonio Guterres United Nations Secretary General.
The civic society said the government threats came against the backdrop Matabeleland marginalisation and discrimination from economic participation and equal educational opportunities.
“The result is that the Matabeleland region today has the least access to education and has the highest school dropout and failure rates.
“The people of Matabeleland are systematically marginalised from economic resources, a situation that has relegated the Matabeleland region, where Ndebele people are largely found, being the centre of poverty, hunger, unemployment and diseases in Zimbabwe,” said the groups.