Churches call for national dialogue

HARARE - Churches have called for national dialogue between government and various stakeholders and implored the State to listen to the complaints raised by long- suffering Zimbabweans if it is to save the country from total implosion.

A host of religious groups such as Zimbabwe Council of Churches, Zimbabwe Christian Alliance and Habakkuk Trust said the current wave of arrests and harassment of ordinary citizens has made people lose confidence and trust in government.

Zimbabwe has for the past two weeks experienced protests from ordinary citizens arguing that government should address the country’s economic meltdown and social injustice.

Among some of the grievances that citizens want addressed is high unemployment rate, failure to account for $15 billion diamond revenue, imposition of import restrictions and bond notes and lack of consultations when implementing policies.

“These grievances must be viewed as the early warning signs which indicate underlining and simmering tensions that will soon explode into civil unrest if not addressed.

“We call upon the government to immediately investigate and prosecute law enforcement agents who allegedly brutalised people.

“The government should also urgently act and address these genuine concerns of the citizens to avoid   total collapse of the State,” the churches said.

In a statement yesterday, Reverend Useni Sibanda, spokesperson of the church leaders drawn from different denominations, raised alarm over what they deemed as unfortunate events currently unfolding in the country where protests are now the order of the day.

“We call upon our government to listen to the cries of citizens whose cries and sufferings are loud and clear.

“There is need to act justly and mercifully on behalf of the poor and disadvantaged in our nation,” Sibanda said.

“We, as church leaders are concerned by the apparent disregard of the Constitution of Zimbabwe by the police and government through selective application of the law, failure to decisively deal with corruption, exclusion of citizens in determining their destiny and the politicisation of people’s genuine complaints and pains,” he said.

“We implore the government to redirect the law enforcement agents to uphold their constitutional role of protecting citizens instead of brutalising them.

“The citizens’ constitutional right to demonstrate and protest must be protected. In exercising this right, we implore citizens to always remain peaceful in their demonstrations.”

Church leader Shingi Munyeza said he commended the efforts by Pastor Evan Mawarire to speak out against injustice, corruption and all vices that have caused poverty in our nation.

“Whilst his voice has been quite timely, I hereby challenge the church through its various leadership structures to come out open as a united force and own the initiative by a fellow man of God,” Munyeza said.

“The truth is, his voice is not a loner’s voice in the wilderness, it is a voice representing the many subdued voices of the majority of Zimbabweans in cities, townships, villages, growth points, plantations, farms, and from the many sons and daughters of this nation scattered in Diaspora.

“It is a voice inspired by a Godly passion to see justice; it is specifically a perspective of the church expressing the feelings of the nation at large.

“But for how long shall it remain a single voice. How long shall we enjoy these ‘successes’ whilst we are hiding behind it in passive solidarity?”

Because he is a voice sourced from the church, Munyeza said the church which commands such respect and integrity in our nation, it was high time his voice be openly owned by the structures from where it is emanating.

“A lone voice can be easily silenced, but who can silence the multitudes he represents?” Munyeza said.

The churches said it was time that government listened to the cries of suffering citizens and act justly and mercifully on behalf of the poor and disadvantaged.

The churches also condemned the brute force being used by law enforcement agents on citizens and advised government to redirect them to uphold their constitutional role of protecting citizens instead of brutalising them.

Munyeza said he was challenging church fathers, heads of denominations and all para churches to assemble and urgently, publicly and fearlessly adopt the initiative by Mawarire and transform it into a credible voice of the church without foreign influence, third parties or politically subversive aspirations.

“I urge these organs to meet in the true spirit with which the incumbent is voicing, and come up with a clear and clean strategy that cannot be hijacked by other opportunistic political organs with unchristian means of resolving the impasse.”

Munyeza said the church has previously approached Mugabe with a document coded “The Zimbabwe We Want”

“It is time we believe our God and the answer. He surely has granted to all our prayers ever since and take action to officially approach our respected leaders.

“We are the church that understands that the powers that be are ordained by God.

“We are a non-violent, peaceful and an apolitical formidable movement that can take this voice further than just a loner’s voice,” he said.

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