Heal Zimbabwe unreservedly condemns the attack on the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference (ZCBC) by the government. The attack came after the Bishops released a Pastoral letter on the current situation in Zimbabwe on 14 August 2020. In the letter, the clergymen expressed concern over state sponsored human rights violations and crackdown on Human Rights Defenders (HRDs).
As a response to the letter, the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Minister, Monica Mutsvangwa issued a statement littered with hate speech and derogatory phrases. The labeling of the Bishops as evil, misguided, evil minded is not only unfortunate but expose government’s intolerance to criticism. Added to this, the singling out of Bishop Robert Ndlovu and subjecting him to all sorts of insults must be condemned. Such attacks are unwarranted and unjustifiable. The response by Minister Mutsvangwa did not even address or share governments’ progress in light of the concerns raised by the Bishops. If anything the response by the Minister all but confirms widely held views that there is lack of political will by government to reform and adhere to principles of democracy spelt out in the constitution such as Section 60 that provides for Freedom of Conscience where every person has the right to freedom of conscience which includes freedom of thought, opinion among others. . Section 61 of the constitution also provides for Freedom of expression.
Heal Zimbabwe is greatly concerned by the lack of intolerance within President Emmerson Mnangagwa which has seen the state deploying everything at its disposal to crush criticism by all means necessary. The letter by the Bishops in which they call for peace and justice adds to similar calls by organisations such as Heal Zimbabwe which over the years have called on the government to initiate a survivor centered healing and reconciliation process to address past episodes of state sponsored violence and respect for the rule of law.
In light of this, Heal Zimbabwe implores government to retract its hate speech filled statement and prioritise concerns raised by the Bishops which call for the government to respect the rule of law and initiate a survivor led process to address past episodes of state sponsored violence. To the Bishops, Heal Zimbabwe urges them to continue to fight for justice and peace in line with their doctrine.