INFORMATION, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa has come out guns blazing against the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference (ZCBC), describing the bishops as genocidal and evil-minded for publishing a Pastoral Letter that incites the public and makes unsubstantiated allegations against Government.
The Pastoral Letter, which was signed by ZCBC president Archbishop Charles Ndlovu, Archbishop Alex Thomas (ZCBC deputy president), and bishops Paul Horan (ZCBC secretary and treasurer), Michael Bhasera (Masvingo), Albert Serrano (Hwange), Rudolf Nyandoro (Gokwe) and Raymond Mupandasekwa (Chinhoyi), was published on Friday and is ridden with political undercurrents.
In the letter, the bishops accuse the Government of human rights violations, while repeating fatigued and unproven allegations against President Mnangagwa’s administration. The letter also appears to incite Catholics and other peace-loving Zimbabweans to overthrow the Government, as it makes reference to a famous statement by the late American politician and civil rights leader John Robert Lewis “that the march is not over”, in what appears to be a reference to the failed 31 July protests. In a hard-hitting address at her offices in Harare yesterday, Minister Mutsvangwa said the Pastoral Letter seeks to sow seeds of war.
“The Government of Zimbabwe calls upon the Catholic congregation to ignore the specious Pastoral Letter. Bishop Christopher Ndlovu is leading a coterie of Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops along the wrong path of bygone petty tribalism, narrow regionalism and the debunked and defeated racial antagonism. Its evil message reeks with all the vices that have perennially hobbled the progress of Africa. It trumpets petty tribal feuds and narrow regionalist agendas. That he (Archbishop Ndlovu) hopes to sow seeds of internecine strife as a prelude to civil war and national disintegration.”
Minister Mutsvangwa likened Archbishop Ndlovu to Rwandan bishop Athanase Seromba, the infamous Rwandese Catholic Archbishop who was tried and sentenced to life imprisonment by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda for inciting genocide.
“Such was the horrendous and abominable conduct of the Rwanda Catholic Church that Pope Francis, the global head of the worldwide Catholic Church had to make a formal Papal visit to Kigali in 2017. The reason was to offer a contrite apology for the heinous crimes of the Rwanda Catholic Clergy. With nefarious cynicism to history, Archbishop Robert Christopher Ndlovu is inching to lead the Zimbabwe Catholic congregation into the darkest dungeons of Rwanda-type genocide.”
She castigated the bishops for relying on unsubstantiated claims against Government, noting that there is neither evidence nor named victims to back-up the claims of human rights abuses.
“The letter is full of generalised accusations. By way of contrast, the meticulous Catholic Peace and Justice Commission of the anti-colonial, anti-racist epoch collated, compiled and published dossiers of specific crimes committed by the colonial settler minority regime. The Archbishop and his flock of misled Catholic bishops have none of that diligence. Instead they wallow in generalised and baseless accusations. Absolutely no shred of reported evidence of so-called victims.”
In the letter the bishops attempted to stir up emotions and divisions by making reference to the Matabeleland disturbances of the 1980s. Minister Mutsvangwa castigated the bishops for attempting to abuse the disturbances for their own ends while ignoring the 1987 Unity Accord that brought an end to the period after the unification of Zanu and PF-Zapu to form Zanu-PF.
“He (Archbishop Ndlovu) wants to posit as the leader of the righteous Ndebele minority by fanning the psychosis of tribal victimisation. Concurrently, he sows sins of collective guilt on the Shona majority. That way he seeks to numb the spirit of collective national vigilance against the known and proven enemies of the populace of Zimbabwe. His transgressions acquire a geopolitical dimension as the chief priest of the agenda of regime change that is the hallmark of the post-imperial major Western powers for the last two decades.”
Addressing Zimbabweans directly, Minister Mutsvangwa said: “Fellow Zimbabweans, Gukurahundi is indeed a dark spot in the tortuous task of nation building by Zimbabwe. The two parties of that needless chapter of history need to be hailed for seeking peace and unity as they avoided the abyss that could have been a full-blown civil war. Happily, we ended up with the 1987 Unity Accord.” She also accused the bishops of having a warped view of history.
“The letter seeks the revival and continuation of the perennial vices of division. It has a selective and warp-sided reading of history. The errant and evil bishop has a nauseating mental amnesia of the blight of minority settler rule and its baggage of exploitative racism against the totality of the black majority of Zimbabwe. The levity of his mental amnesia is worsened by the fact that he tears off pages of the progressive crusade for justice and democracy that has hitherto been the shining virtue of the Catholic Church in Zimbabwe.”
Minister Mutsvangwa said the bishops chose to ignore risks posed by Covid-19 to incite people to demonstrate yet the World Health Organisation daily announces strictures to assist national Governments to fight and contain the pandemic.
“In the face of all that, our narrow-minded bishop pontificates against Covid-19 rules. Even when America, his much-admired paragon of democracy and justice is complying. Recently President Trump had to call off the National Convention of his Republican Party slated for Jacksonville, Florida,” she said. It was unfortunate that in the eyes of the “reckless Archbishop”, pride of place was accorded to the crusade against the governing and ruling party of Zimbabwe.
“The cause of national health in face of a pandemic is of no consequence. By calling people to march in the midst of the pandemic the bishop relishes the prospect of mass deaths. To him maybe that speeds up the ascent of the populace of Zimbabwe to their biblical judgement of heaven or hell. And behold, Pastoral Letter Bishops Conference of 14th August 2020 does not bother to invoke the repeated Papal calls for a global ceasefire in regions of war and strive.”
The minister said the Pastoral Letter goes against the Pope’s call on nations to concentrate effort and resources to the fight against global pandemic. Pope Francis recently implored the United Nations Security Council to pass a resolution 5 July 2020. “This noble aspiration of the Pope as head of the global Catholic Church is cited nowhere in the offending Pastoral Letter of the hate-mongering Archbishop Christopher Ndlovu. For God’s sake, why ignore the letter and spirit of the supreme Archbishop in the Vatican? If wars and strife can be wished away, how about a mere political uprising under the guise of an ill-fated mass demonstration?”
She said during the liberation struggle, Catholic bishops gained fame for protecting people’s rights unlike the ZCBC which is pushing political interests.
“Who can forget the venerable Bishop Lamont of Mutare and his brave defiance of the illegal and racist rule of Ian Smith and his 1965 Unilateral Declaration of Independence?
“How Bishop Lamont of the Carmelite Missionary Order in Zimbabwe went on to be a victim of a probably contrived car accident, his incarceration and eventual deportation. Yes, that brave man of the cloth could only return to Zimbabwe after 1980 in the wake of the victory of the National Liberation Movement.”
She challenged Zimbabweans not to be fooled by the call that “The march is not ended”.
“No No No! His Excellency President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa will have none of that. He will strive to dutifully protect the well-being and health of the people of Zimbabwe,” she said.
— Sunday News