Zimbabwe?s bishops take off the gloves

ZIMBABWE?S Roman Catholic bishops have lashed out at President Robert Mugabe’s government, and denounced the 15-month campaign of violence led by liberation war veterans loyal to him.

The pastoral letter, which will be distributed to every Catholic church, school and institution in Zimbabwe, is the harshest criticism yet of Mugabe’s regime from any of the religious groups here.

“In our country the holders of political power, including those claiming to be Christians, do tend to abuse their fellow human beings,” the nation’s nine bishops said, without directly naming Mugabe or his ruling ZANU-PF party.

“Violence, intimidation and threats are the tools of failed politicians. We must point out to them that they are engaging in an unjust activity,” the bishops said.

The bishops specifically denounced the violent campaign of liberation war veterans, who spearheaded the invasions of hundreds of white-owned farms last year and have for the last month expanded their raids to urban businesses.

“The activities of war veterans, in both rural and urban areas, are not solving problems in the proper manner,” the letter said.

“It is the duty of government to ensure that the nation is not held to ransom by a few. We urge the government to allow the law enforcement agents to perform their duties without interference so that there is a sense of security in the country.”

The bishops also denounced intimidation of journalists, who have suffered beatings, harassment and two bombings at the nation’s only independent daily newspaper.

While the bishops said the issue of land reform should have been resolved long ago, they warned against committing new injustices in trying to correct colonial-era inequalities in land ownership.

“The programme of land distribution should target the people who are really in need of it. We should be careful not to create more injustices in the process of addressing legitimate concerns,” they said.

The church has generally been criticised by opposition groups and some civic organisations for keeping mum over the political violence and lawlessness that has struck Zimbabwe since February last year. - AFP

ZA*NOW:

Zim war vets rattle sabres May 2, 2001

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