Government has engaged the Holy See’s papal Pro-Nuncio to Zimbabwe, Archbishop Marek Zalewski, to establish whether a pastoral letter issued by the Zimbabwe Catholics Bishops Conference (ZCBC) was a reflection of the official attitude of the Holy See towards Harare.
This comes as Government has described the pastoral letter as a gross misrepresentation of the political situation in the country, which it said aligned itself with a recent wave of deliberately misleading media hype portraying a country in crisis.
Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi has made a comprehensive response to the pastoral letter.
He said the Government had tasked Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister Sibusiso Moyo to meet the Apostolic Pro-Nuncio Archbishop Zalewski on issues raised by the bishops that cast aspersions on the Government.
Minister Moyo subsequently met Achbishop Zalewski yesterday, but details of the meeting were not made available to the Press by the time of going to print.
In their letter, the bishops said: “It is not clear to us as your bishops that the national leadership that we have has the knowledge, social skill, emotional stability and social orientation to handle the issues we face as a nation.”
In response, Minister Ziyambi said the statement by the bishops “constitutes an outright insult to the person of President Mnangagwa and his entire Government and is couched in a language decidedly unbecoming of an institution such as the Catholic Church.
“Given that the venerable bishops represent the Catholic Church, Government is compelled to directly engage the Vatican to ascertain whether or not such statements reflect the official attitude of the Holy See towards Zimbabwe’s leadership or whether these are merely the views of the various individuals concerned.”
Minister Ziyambi said the bishops did not engage the Government, but instead relied on false information that is peddled on social media with respect to the several allegations they made against the Government.
Since assuming office, said Minister Ziyambi, President Mnangagwa has had an inclusive engagement with all religious groupings and his appointment of church representatives to the Presidential Advisory Council illustrated this open-arms approach to dialogue and engagement.
“Notwithstanding the deliberately provocative and divisive nature of the pastoral letter, the President’s commitment to the path of engagement with all religious communities remains steadfast and solid,” he said.
He said it was not true that the Government was not acting decisively on corruption as several high-profile people, including Cabinet ministers and those close to the President, had been arraigned before criminal courts over graft.
Minister Ziyambi said it was not true that journalist-cum activist Hopewell Chin’ono was arrested for exposing corruption as suggested by the social media and the bishops, but for inciting violence, a quite different charge.
He said several media organisations have reported about allegations of corruption in some State institutions, but none of the journalists have been arrested.
On the State institutions, Minister Ziyambi said it was not true that the courts were captured as the Government has lost a majority of cases it has disputed in courts.
“For instance, in the period between February 1 to May 15, 2020, the High Court in Harare heard a total of 25 cases in which Government was a party to proceedings against various litigants. Of these cases, only six were ruled in favour of Government. The remaining 19 were ruled against Government. For the bishops to suggest that the Judiciary is not independent is demonstrably false and one can only wonder at the motivation behind such misrepresentation,” said Minister Ziyambi.
He said all constitutional commissions were independent because their autonomy was guaranteed by the Constitution.
Minister Ziyambi gave an example of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission that published several reports critical to the Government.
“Although Government has strongly disagreed with these reports, neither the Commission nor any of its members have attracted any adverse consequences,” he said.
On nation building, Minister Ziyambi said Government had gone to extraordinary lengths to create a spirit of peace, unity and cohesion among all Zimbabweans including inviting international organisations to observe elections, establishing the Motlanthe Commission to openly investigate cases of politically motivated violence, and invited all political parties to a dialogue platform called the Political Actors Dialogue.
He said President Mnangagwa established the Presidential Advisory Council where well known Government critic, Pastor Shingi Munyeza, is not only a member but also a Government-appointed director of Zimbabwe Newspapers.
Minister Ziyambi said Bishops must have noted that recently Pastor Munyeza has used his sermons to call for the removal of the Government in a language that could not be described as moderate but there have been no consequences visited against him.
On Gukurahundi, Minister Ziyambi said the President opened dialogue with Matabeleland-based civil society organisations and traditional leaders and called on people to freely discuss what happened without fear of arrest or victimisation.