number 9, december 14, 1998

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Zimbabwe Christians criticise government

By Stephen Brown

A group of Zimbabwean Christians have denounced "poverty, ill-health, bad governance, corruption, fear and hopelessness" in this country.

The criticisms, unusually strong in a country where strong public dissent is rare, were made in the Zimbabwean Kairos Document, published just before the start of the WCC assembly on 3 December.

The document was produced by Ecumenical Support Services, a Christian non-governmental organisation based in Zimbabwe which is often more progressive than Zimbabwe's mainstream churches.

(Kairos is a Greek word used in the Bible to refer to "an opportunity for repentance and a change of heart, for change and for decisive action with the oppressed in a time of crisis". An earlier "Kairos" document, drawn up in 1985 by Christians campaigning against apartheid in neighbouring South Africa, became a major rallying point for opponents of white rule.)

According to the Zimbabwe document, the nation has been plunged into a "political, economic, and, above all, moral crisis that is shaking its very foundation".

It claims that Zimbabwe is governed by a "Soviet Union-style single party system" where "all power to initiate laws is placed "in the tightly controlled party leadership, politburo and central committee".

Although the country is theoretically a multi-party democracy, the documents points out that only three members of parliament do not belong to the President Robert Mugabe's ruling ZANU (PF) party.

"Despite our hopes and expectations [at independence] in 1980, today we find new black political and economic elites, which have replaced the old colonial elites within the same structures," it says.

The document also criticises the country's churches, saying that while some churches "have constantly challenged injustice, both before and after independence, many have failed to educate their members about abuses of power by authorities".

The document adds: "In this sense, the churches share responsibility for the fear of authority that has gripped us."

Among criticisms of the ruling ZANU (PF) party since independence is the claim that thousands of hectares of land have been taken by government and given to senior ministers and officials while peasants on communal land can barely eke out an existence.

It also says the government used "tanks and bullets" last January against unarmed people demonstrating against rising food prices, leading to deaths and injuries; and accuses ZANU (PF) of being a "ruling party with a disproportionate access to financial support, control of both electronic and print media, dishonest registration and balloting procedures, coercion and violence".

Ecumenical News International

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Read other articles in this issue:

Mandela to WCC: tribute, and the development goal
Four fundamental questions for churches
Experiences people have had: Living the ecumenical connection
Orthodox preachers shares testimony about being lost
Visitors take home gift of a covenant
Bulgarian Orthodox quit WCC
Looking for the vision
WCC to set up commission with Orthodox churches
Trees will be reminder of the 8th assembly
Listen! Children can work
Letters: Provocative, misleading
50 years ago: Report from Amsterdam
Zimbabwe Christians criticise government
WCC celebrates 50th anniversary
Assembly yes to Christian 'forum'

8th Assembly and 50th Anniversary

copyright 1998 World Council of Churches. Remarks to webeditor