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Mugabe says Catholic Bishops’ letter is political nonsense

President Robert Mugabe described the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference pastoral letter which said the current leaders were no different from their colonial predecessors as “political nonsense” and accused the bishops of embarking on a “dangerous path.”

Local government Minister Ignatius Chombo, who is also a Catholic called the letter “hateful, unfair, inaccurate, too general, malicious, insidious and, to some extent, diabolic.” 

Their comments came almost a month after the letter had been widely circulated throughout the country.

 

Full cable:

 

Viewing cable 07HARARE449, GOZ REACTS TO CATHOLIC BISHOPS’ PASTORAL LETTER

If you are new to these pages, please read an introduction on the structure of a cable as well as how to discuss them with others. See also the FAQs

Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

07HARARE449

2007-05-21 15:01

2011-08-30 01:44

CONFIDENTIAL

Embassy Harare

VZCZCXRO1585

RR RUEHMR RUEHRN

DE RUEHSB #0449/01 1411501

ZNY CCCCC ZZH

R 211501Z MAY 07

FM AMEMBASSY HARARE

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1503

INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY

RUEHUJA/AMEMBASSY ABUJA 1606

RUEHAR/AMEMBASSY ACCRA 1473

RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 1610

RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN 0271

RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 0875

RUEHDK/AMEMBASSY DAKAR 1238

RUEHKM/AMEMBASSY KAMPALA 1666

RUEHNR/AMEMBASSY NAIROBI 4072

RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 1435

RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME 2093

RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 0733

RHMFISS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC

RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE

RUFOADA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK

RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC

RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC

RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS

RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 1827

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 000449

 

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: 05/21/2012

TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM ZI

SUBJECT: GOZ REACTS TO CATHOLIC BISHOPS’ PASTORAL LETTER

 

REF: A. A) HARARE 284

 

B. B) 2006 HARARE 783

 

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

 

——-

Summary

——-

 

1. (C) After several weeks of silence, the GOZ, through

newspaper interviews with President Robert Mugabe and

Minister of Local Government, Public Works and Urban

Development Ignatius Chombo, slammed the pastoral letter of

the Catholic Bishops’ Conference disseminated and read at the

beginning of April. In a conversation with poleconchief on

May 17, Archbishop Robert Ndlovu said the letter entitled

“God Hears the Cry of the Oppressed” had raised important

issues that would need to be considered in next year’s

election. Ndlovu said the Church was open to dialogue with

the government, but he thought this unlikely given election

year politics. The bishops will meet in June to consider the

government’s reaction and next steps. End Summary.

 

————————–

Letter Widely Disseminated

————————–

 

2. (SBU) The pastoral letter (Ref A) blamed a small black

elite for perpetuating colonial-like misrule and for the

assault, beating and torture of unarmed demonstrators.

Referring to a crisis of governance, it called for the repeal

of repressive legislation and a new constitution. According

to Ndlovu, the letter was read from pulpits throughout the

country. Numerous copies were distributed to Catholics and

non-Catholics alike throughout the country.

 

3. (C) Ndlovu told us the letter was well-received in urban

areas but the reaction to it was mixed in rural areas. He

believed this was because of the omnipresence of ZANU-PF and

limited access of people to other than the government

controlled media in these areas. He also noted that

government security forces had impounded copies of the letter

to prevent more extensive dissemination.

 

—————-

GOZ Slams Letter

—————-

 

4. (U) Almost a month later, in an interview with the

GOZ-controlled Herald, Mugabe termed the letter “political

nonsense” and accused the Bishops of embarking on a

“dangerous path.” He said he would talk to some of the

bishops about the substance of the letter, but specifically

excluded outspoken Bulawayo Archbishop Pius Ncube. However,

GOZ minister Chombo several days later raised the level of

rhetoric, calling the letter “hateful, unfair, inaccurate,

too general, malicious, insidious and, to some extent,

diabolic.”

 

5. (C) Ndlovu said the bishops’ public address of truth to

power had clearly struck a nerve with the government. He

thought that the delayed government reaction was due to

surprise. The letter had taken them unawares. He argued

that in fact it was the government that had politicized the

letter by their harsh response and by conflating the Church

with the political opposition.

 

 

HARARE 00000449 002 OF 002

 

 

————————

Bishops Open to Dialogue

————————

 

6. (C) Referring to Mugabe’s statement that he would discuss

the letter with “some” of the bishops, Ndlovu said the

Bishops, Conference would be glad to meet with him, but

would insist on the presence of all bishops, including Ncube.

To date, they had not heard from the president.

 

7. (C) The Catholic Bishops, Conference was a signatory,

along with the Zimbabwe Council of Churches and the

Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe, to the “National Vision”

document, endorsed by Mugabe in October, which called for

national dialogue (Ref B). Ndlovu told us he and the bishops

had not abandoned the idea of a nation-wide dialogue that

included the government, but he believed the focus in the

upcoming months would be on the 2008 election rather than

dialogue. Nevertheless, he believed the issues set out in

the pastoral letter would be raised by candidates in the

election.

 

8. (C) Ndlovu concluded that the bishops would meet at the

beginning of June to consider the GOZ’s reaction to the

letter and next steps. Despite the government’s caustic

reaction, he believed the bishops were united in their desire

to continue to raise the points set out in the letter.

 

——-

Comment

——-

 

9. (C) As we noted Ref A, the pastoral letter contains some

of the most forthright African criticism ever of Mugabe and

his regime. The regime’s harsh response would appear to be a

signal that, despite its religious authority, Mugabe is

prepared to strike back at further Church efforts critical of

him and his government. Churches remain the one national

institution in Zimbabwe that Mugabe and ZANU-PF have not been

able to co-opt. They are thus regarded (not incorrectly) by

the regime as a potentially very dangerous foe. Hence the

strength of the regime backlash.

DELL

(27 VIEWS)

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