Monday, 7 July 2008

Mugabe and the churches

There is a link here to an excellent article by Steve Kibble in this weeks New Statesmen which looks at the complex relationship between Mugabe and the churches in Zimbabwe. It doesn't make very comfortable reading for anyone who believes in speaking the truth to power but it shows how difficult it is for any form of civil society to organise under authoritarian rule.

"After a number of pastoral statements calling for an end to violence and poverty, but not apportioning blame, a turning point came in April 2007 when the Catholic Bishops’ Conference issued a statement. “God Hears the Cry of the Oppressed” squarely blamed the Mugabe government for spiralling inflation, rampant food shortages and widespread intimidation. The ZANU-PF response? Use of its youth militias to stop the pastoral letter being read out to congregations, threats against the clergy, and a successful campaign to remove leading ZANU-PF critic Pius Ncube, the Catholic Archbishop of Bulawayo."

In the same issue there's also an article by Gerry Simpson of Human Rights Watch on the long term torture many Zimbabwean refugees have been coping with for years.
"Grace lives in Johannesburg and, like hundreds of Zimbabweans tortured by Robert Mugabe’s “war veterans” and youth militia since the March 2008 elections she is struggling to survive. But Grace is not one of the recently tortured. Instead, her story reflects the reality for millions of Zimbabweans and speaks to eight years of political repression and economic destruction next door."