Zimbabwe Heads of Christian Denominations (ZHOCD) has called for a comprehensive and inclusive national dialogue to act on the current social and economic crisis in the country.
The clerics also called for the removal of sanctions imposed on the country by western countries.
ZHOCD is made up of the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe (EFZ), the Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC) and Union for Development of the Apostolic Churches in Zimbabwe (UDACIZA).
The church bodies said the current talks led by President Emmerson Mnangagwa were not an accurate account of efforts, as those were of a political nature and not nationally inclusive.
Addressing a presser during the ZCHOCD conference in Bulawayo, Thursday, ZCC general secretary Reverend Dr Kenneth Mtata said the problem in Zimbabwe was complex and was difficult to pinpoint as it had adopted an economic, governance and social dimension and broken down relationships.
“If we going to find lasting solutions, we need to address these issues together as we have a multiple of problems, which is why we are saying we must not mix issues. A national political dialogue and we have had political dialogues in the past, is not a national dialogue. What we are calling for is a comprehensive national dialogue that involves everyone,” he said.
Rev, Mtata denied that the church was silent but said it has issued statements that spoke to various situations and even engaged the different levels of national leadership.
“The church has not only responded to the January (Shutdown protests) events but before the elections, the church raised an alarm that the nation was so polarised that if we had elections in such an environment, there was a likelihood of an outbreak of violence. Soon after the elections, there was violence on August 1 and the church again reiterated its position that we have a systematic problem that is deep polarisation in which the nation cannot imagine its future together,” he noted.
Of late, the role of the church has also come into question with critics alleging some religious pastors have been captured by the regime and do not speak out against atrocities committed by the state.
But EFCZ Bishop Never Muparutsa said it was only fair to judge churches after seeing the content they brought to the table.
“Churches work by faith and the confidence for us to call for a comprehensive dialogue comes from the pain we all have come to realise, to say all of us are willing to come to the table to help each other. It’s not about who is superior to who, the sustaining environment is pushing us but we believe all Zimbabweans have come to a place that we need a solution. It’s not sustainable to buy bread at RGTS3.50,” he said.
Bishop Muparutsa, however, did concede that there are a number of issues the church had not done well.
“We have realised there is a number of things that are not right within ourselves as a church and in many ways, including the way the church has been behaving also. We have taken time to look at the state of the church itself and we realise there are certain things that we have not done well, which we want to correct ourselves.
“Before we point fingers at others we have pointed fingers on ourselves. The fact that we are the umbrella bodies of the main churches in this country is why we think to hold a strong authentic voice to correct some of those things. It is not about siding with who but doing the right thing,” he said.
Archbishop Alex Thomas of the Archdiocese of Bulawayo added that the churches were calling for the country’s economic transformation.
“The issues are very specific – corruption, high unemployment, hiking of prices, lack of confidence in the banking system, shortages and poor stewardship,” he said.
ZHOCD also appealed to the international community for respectful solidarity as the churches pursued this local avenue.
“Further we implore you to remove the sanctions even as we call upon our own government to comply with international standards and norm of human rights democracy and good governance,” said ZCC president, Bishop Mpande Lazarus Khanye.