Zimbabwe Christian denominations heads tell military to ensure human rights and dignity

(Photo: The Herald)Robert and Grace Mugabe on their way out after military takeover in Zimbabwe.

The Zimbabwe Heads of Christian Denominations have told the country's military which seized power in the country on Nov. 15 to ensure that human rights and dignity are respected and called for them to allow a government of national unity.

The church leaders are a powerful group representing the Zimbabwe Council of Churches, the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops' Conference and the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe.

They issued a powerful and detailed statement in which they admitted the role of the churches in the complicity of what many people have dubbed to descent of "African bread basket" to "African basket case.".

Their statement came the day after the Zimbabwe Defense Forces seized the State broadcaster ZBC-TV and told the nation their action was targeted at "criminals" surrounding 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe who has ruled since 1980.

ZDF spokesman Major General Sibusiso Moyo, said what had happened in the Zimbabwe capital Harare with armored personnel carriers taking over the streets was not "a military takeover of government."

He said Mugabe, who was strongly supported by the military in extending his decades of dictatorial rule, was safe.

"We are aware that the Zimbabwe Defense Forces is currently managing the situation. But we want to make it clear to them that it is their responsibility to ensure that human dignity and rights are respected.

"Human life is God-given and is therefore sacred. All human beings, no-matter the wrongs they will have done, have rights. This is not a time to allow for lawlessness and vindictive and selective application of the law," said the heads of the churches.

The armed forces' takeover appeared to resolve a bitter battle to succeed Mugabe, which pitted his wife Grace against the former vice-president, 75-year-old Emmerson Mnangagwa.

A veteran of the struggle for independence from white minority rule like Mugabe, Mnangagwa was reported to have returned to Zimbabwe on Tuesday evening from South Africa.


He fled the previous week after being stripped of his office by Mugabe in an apparent attempt to clear the path of South African-born Grace Mugabe to power.

"The Zimbabwe defense forces have stressed that theirs is not a military coup, but an effort to manage the current situation," said the church heads.

"In the light of this position, we are calling for the formalization of a transitional government of national unity that will oversee the smooth transition to a free and fair election."

That is a road the country had been down once before when Mugabe refused to admit he had lost an election in 2008 and agreed to such a government, only to wrest power back again later.

"The current situation is not only the doing of the ruling party and government," said the church leaders.

"It is also the result of the connivance of the different arms of the state and complicity of the church and civil society.

"All of us at some point failed to play our roles adequately. The church has lost its prophetic urge driven by personality cults and superstitious approaches to socio-economic and political challenges.

"Civil society over time has become focused on survival and competition and lost the bigger picture of the total emancipation of the population."

Mugabe was born on a Catholic mission near Harare, and was educated by Jesuit priests. He studied at South Africa's University of Fort Hare, where Nelson Mandela also graduated.

(Photo: REUTERS / Philimon Bulawayo)Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe speaks at the opening of the ZANU-PF annual People's Conference in Chinhoyi, north-west of Harare December 13, 2013. Mugabe said on Friday members of his party would choose his eventual replacement, but gave no timeline despite a mounting succession battle triggered by long-denied reports he is suffering from cancer.
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