Zimbabwean bishops present a united front

“There is no way the Church will remain silent”


Protesters demonstrate outside the Embassy of Zimbabwe in Pretoria, South Africa, last month, against the record of President Mnangagwa’s government on corruption and human rights

THE Anglican bishops in Zimbabwe have said that they stand with the country’s Catholic Bishops’ Conference, whose pastoral letter, “The March Is Not Ended”, was denounced by the Zimbabwean government last week.

The Anglican Council of Zimbabwe (ACZ), in a letter published on Wednesday and signed by all five of the Anglican bishops, said that they wanted to express their concerns, and emphasised: “Indeed the ‘March Is Not Ended’ unless and until the issues raised by the people of Zimbabwe and also echoed by the bishops are attended to and resolved holistically.”

The Anglican bishops noted with “concern the several responses by the Government of Zimbabwe to the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference (ZCBC) which seem to dismiss the fact that the Church is called to exercise its prophetic role, which can mean challenging our political leaders on their conduct of affairs, particularly if this affects the people of God”.

“There is no way the Church will remain silent” in the current situation in Zimbabwe, the Bishop of Manicaland, the Rt Revd Erick Ruwona, said this week.

The dioceses are facing several challenges. In the past fortnight, Covid-19 cases have doubled in the country, while informal traders, in an economy riddled by high unemployment, struggle to work because of Covid-19 restrictions.

In the eastern part of the country, in the diocese of Manicaland, Bishop Ruwona said: “Covid-19 came just one year after Cyclone Idai [News, 22 March], before we had enough time to deal with the destructive effects of that.”

In Manicaland, PPEs were procured for health institutions with funds from Tearfund and the diocese of Southwark. Initially, with Tearfund aid, they ran a food-aid programme, before resources dried up. “We did not think Covid-19 would last so long,” the Bishop said.

He is currently on bail after being charged in January with defrauding the Anglican Church of US$700,000. He denies the charges. On 14 August, the case was postponed for the seventh time.

In the diocese of Matabeleland, church officials are involved in an ongoing battle to keep an Anglican farm from being forcibly taken by about 500 illegal settlers who, in recent months, have stepped up their campaign, despite existing eviction orders. The farm is home to the Cyrene Mission, an Anglican school, and a clinic. The diocese has accused the police in the village of Figtree of turning a blind eye.

In May, the diocese appealed directly to the President, Emmerson Mnangagwa, in a letter copied to the police in Figtree: “We appeal to your good office to step in urgently and stop this occupation and lawlessness. We pray that the rule of law may prevail.”

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