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Catholic bishops release hard-hitting pastoral letter

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Zimbabwe has released a pastoral letter which blames the suffering of the Zimbabwean people on a small black elitewhich replaced a small while elite and has perpetuated colonial-like misrule.

The letter entitled “God Hears The Cry Of The Oppressed”, refers to the assault, beating, and torture of unarmed demonstrators and detainees, and calls for a new constitution and the repeal of repressive legislation.

It goes on to say that members of the government and opposition profess loyalty to the same Church and participate in Church rituals, the next day “Christian State Agents, policemen and soldiers assault and beat peaceful, unarmed demonstrators and torture detainees”.

 

Full cable:

 

Viewing cable 07HARARE284, CATHOLIC BISHOPS CONFERENCE RELEASES HARD-HITTING

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

07HARARE284

2007-04-04 15:25

2011-08-30 01:44

CONFIDENTIAL

Embassy Harare

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RUEHROV/AMEMBASSY VATICAN

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RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 1777

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 HARARE 000284

 

SIPDIS

 

SIPDIS

 

AF/S FOR S.HILL

ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU

ADDIS ABABA FOR ACSS

STATE PASS TO USAID FOR E.LOKEN

STATE PASS TO NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR B.PITTMAN

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/04/2012

TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM ZI

SUBJECT: CATHOLIC BISHOPS CONFERENCE RELEASES HARD-HITTING

PASTORAL LETTER

 

HARARE 00000284 001.2 OF 003

 

 

Classified By: Ambassador Christopher Dell under Section 1.4 b/d

 

——-

Summary

——-

 

1. (C) The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Zimbabwe is

releasing April 5 a pastoral letter which blames the

suffering of the Zimbabwean people on a small black elite

which replaced a small while elite, and has perpetuated

colonial-like misrule. The letter refers to the assault,

beating, and torture of unarmed demonstrators and detainees,

and calls for a new constitution and the repeal of repressive

legislation. Harare Archbishop Robert Ndlovu told polecon

chief that the letter has already circulated in Harare where

local officials were accusing priests of affiliation with the

MDC. Ndlovu said the Conference would meet again at the end

of April to gauge the GOZ’s reaction and consider next steps.

He added the Conference may ask the Vatican to comment on

the letter. While such comment might have little effect on

the GOZ, we believe it could serve to focus international

attention on the misdeeds of the Mugabe government. End

Summary.

 

——————-

Pastoral Letter

——————-

 

2. (U) The letter, entitled “God Hears The Cry Of The

Oppressed,” begins by declaring that “the people of Zimbabwe

are suffering.8 It ascribes the resulting anger to &bad

governance and corruption.” It goes on to note that after

members of the government and opposition profess loyalty to

the same Church and participate in Church rituals, the next

day “Christian State Agents, policemen and soldiers assault

and beat peaceful, unarmed demonstrators and torture

detainees.”

 

3. (U) Referring to the crisis of governance, the letter

goes on to discuss the deteriorating health system,

educational sector, infrastructure, and public transport

system. It notes that two years after Operation

Muranbatsvina, thousands are without homes and that “that

inexcusable injustice has not been forgotten.” It condemns

the “radical land reform programme” and states that as a

result of the program many are hungry and unemployed. The

section on governance concludes, “The list of justified

grievances is long and could go on for many pages….The

suffering people of Zimbabwe are groaning in agony:

‘Watchman, how much longer is the night.’ (Is 21:11)”

 

4. (U) The letter states that “being elected to a position

of leadership is not a license to do as one pleases(” and

claims that after independence the wealth and power of the

tiny white elite was &appropriated by an equally exclusive

black elite.” The letter goes on to note that the present

crisis has colonial roots; the colonial structures of

pre-independence Zimbabwe persist today and have been

reinforced by enactment of repressive legislation such as the

Public Order and Security Act (POSA) and the Access to

Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA). “It

almost appears as though someone sat down with the

Declaration of Human Rights and deliberately scrubbed out

each in turn.” Repressive legislation was enacted, according

to the letter, by the black elites intent on perpetuating

 

HARARE 00000284 002.2 OF 003

 

 

their power.

 

5. (U) The Conference, in the letter, states that the

confrontation in the country has reached a flashpoint. As

the suffering population seeks to protest, “the State

responds with ever harsher oppression through arrests,

detentions, banning orders, beatings, and torture.” The

Conference calls for a new constitution, free and fair

elections, and repeal of repressive legislation. (Note. We

are sending the letter by unclassified email to AF/S. End

Note.)

 

————————-

The Genesis of the Letter

————————-

 

6. (C) Archbishop Ndlovu told us the situation in Zimbabwe

was “pathetic.” People were resigned to oppression and

scarcity of food, and he did not think they would take to the

streets in protest. He thought the end of the Mugabe era was

near, but it was taking longer than expected. He was

concerned that with food scarcity, due to drought and

government mismanagement of agriculture, the government could

use food assistance as a tool in the upcoming election.

 

7. (C) Against this backdrop, Ndlovu said the Bishops’

Conference drafted the pastoral letter. However, it was

overtaken by the violent events of March 11 and afterward.

The Conference subsequently redrafted the letter to put

greater emphasis on government-sponsored violence.

 

————————–

GOZ Reaction to the Letter

————————–

 

8. (C) While the letter was not to be released until April

5, Holy Thursday, Ndlovu said it had already been circulated

on the Internet. Several Harare priests had notified him

that ocal GOZ officials had threateningly accused them f

collaboration with the MDC. Ndlovu opined tha after the

letter is formally released the GOZ wuld not formally

respond to it, but would criticze it privately. He added

that the Church was seeking dialogue over a new Constitution,

but the GZ was now in election mode and probably not

interesting in talking. The recent upsurge in violence was

an element of its elections strategy.

 

—————————

The Conference,s Next Steps

—————————

 

9. (C) Ndlovu said the Conference of Bishops would meet

again at the end of April to take stock of the GOZ’s reaction

to the letter. A request to Rome for comment on the letter

was a possibility. If such a request were made, he believed

the Vatican would honor it. He was skeptical, however, of

any effect it would have on the government or on Zimbabwe in

general. (Note. According to Ndlovu, Catholicism is the

largest organized religion in Zimbabwe. Fifteen percent of

Zimbabweans are Catholics, approximately 500,000 people in

Harare out of 1.5 million in the country. The next largest

organized groups are Methodists and Anglicans. About 60

percent of Zimbabweans are &traditionalists,8 with some

claiming to be Christians. End Note.)

 

 

HARARE 00000284 003.2 OF 003

 

 

———————-

Mugabe and Catholicism

———————-

 

10. Ndlovu said that Mugabe often referred to the importance

of his Catholic upbringing. Ndlovu said he had met with

Mugabe privately on one occasion and that Mugabe had not

wanted to discuss Catholicism in the context of contemporary

Zimbabwe. Ndlovu added that recent efforts to meet with

Mugabe had been to no avail.

 

——–

Bio Note

——–

 

11. (C) Like his outspoken and controversial colleague,

Archbishop Pius Ncube of Bulawayo, Ndlovu is an Ndbele. He

appears to share many of Ncube’s sentiments about the

government and current conditions in Zimbabwe, but is a

consensus builder and prefers to move deliberately. Ndlovu

was born and raised in Western Zimbabwe. He received an

undergraduate degree in theology from the University of

Zimbabwe and a graduate degree in scripture from the Catholic

University of East Africa in Nairobi. He trained priests for

a number of years in Harare. Before assuming his present

position about two years ago, he was a bishop in Hwange.

 

——-

Comment

——-

 

12. (C) The pastoral letter is an explicit and forceful

document that lays blame for the suffering of the Zimbabwean

people squarely on the government. It includes some of the

most forthright criticism we have ever seen from Africans

about how the Mugabe regime has betrayed and perverted the

ideals of liberation, and it represents a direct attack on

Mugabe,s legitimacy which he justifies almost exclusively on

his liberation credentials.

 

13. (C) Ndlovu is probably right when he says the government

will try to publicly ignore the letter while privately adding

its authors to its ever-growing list of enemies. He is

probably also right that comment from the Vatican would have

little effect on the GOZ. It would, however, get

international attention, particularly among those members of

the European Union that have been conciliatory toward

Zimbabwe, which include the largely Catholic southern

European countries. We will follow up with Ndlovu later this

month, after the next Bishops’ Conference, and urge him to

pursue support from the Vatican. End Comment

 

DELL

(7 VIEWS)

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