The Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) led by human rights defender Jestina Mukoko has stood with Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops who recently rallied the citizenry to protest against human rights violations in the country.
The government, however, issued an attack saying the Pastoral letter by the bishops was misguided and could cause divisions in the country.
Below is the ZPP’s response to the attacks by Information minister senator Monica Mutsvangwa.
ZPP stands with ZCBC
ZPP is deeply concerned with the response by the govt of ZW through the Information minister, Monica Mutsvangwa, to the Pastoral Letter by the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishop’s Conference (ZCBC) entitled ‘The March has not ended”.
The letter, among other issues, denounced the human rights breaches by government. Several human rights actors have faced harassment, arbitrary arrests, abduction and torture, particularly since the onset of the COVID-19 induced national lockdown. The letter also noted how past, unresolved hurts such as Gukurahundi and the current unprecedented corruption levels are contributing to the frustrations of the citizenry. It is unfortunate that, instead of self introspecting and at least engaging the clergy to deliberate on the issues raised, the government chose to target and launch a tribal attack on the Archbishop, Robert Christopher Ndlovu, accusing him of being evil-minded and misguided. Such attacks are concerning, particularly in an environment where dissenting voices have n abducted or arrested. All the ZCBC did, like every other institution that seeks to see values of democracy being implemented, reach out to the govt with the hope for a better Zimbabwe. The hate language and vilification by the government only serve to further increase tensions and are a clear disrespect of Sections 60 and 61 of the Zimbabwe Constitution that provide for Freedom of Conscience and Freedom of Expression respectively.In the last few weeks, many institutions, among them, the @_AfricanUnion, @UN SG, the chairperson of the African Comm for Human & People’s Rights have voiced concern about the events unfolding in the country. @CyrilRamaphosa has also dispatched envoys to Harare on same issues.
ZPP, whose vision is a Zimbabwe where there is Peace, Justice, Dignity and Development stands in firm solidarity with the ZCBC and all signatories to the Pastoral Letter, who called for the much-needed exclusivity, when they noted that “it feels as though the poor have no one to defend them. They don’t seem to feature on the national agenda. Their cries for an improved health system go unheeded. Their plea for a transport system that meets their transport blues are met with promises & promises and no action”“…the only time we see real action is when our leaders are jostling for power, to secure it or to ascend to offices of power…” It is regrettable that the church, where citizens have always found refuge during turmoil is attacked for calling out govt on widespread corruption, the health delivery that has become a death trap and an economy that has seen the majority of people sink deeper into poverty.It is important for the govt to be cognisant of their obligation to respect the rights of its citizens & protect them as per Constitution & other instruments that include the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We, like ZCBC, simply ask government to do the right thing, return to constitutionalism and uphold the rule of law. ZPP calls for: The govt to acknowledge that the country is facing a crisis which, if left unattended, threatens to spiral out of control impacting the generality of citizens. Continued denial of a crisis that is there for all to see is not going to make it disappear. ZPP further calls for: The government to realise that human rights are neither given at the benevolence of the government nor are they a privilege. Govt to retract their hate statement & properly engage with the ZCBC, the church at large and all Zimbabweans in dialogue.
Lastly, ZPP asks government to stop fanning divisions among citizens through use of hate language.
Mukoko is a direct victim of human rights violation. She won her case against the government after she was kidnapped and tortured by state security agents a couple of years ago.