Zimbabwe: Catholic Church holds assembly on nation's crisis

 A two-day special assembly organised by the Catholic bishops of Zimbabwe examined the roots of the nation's political and economic crisis. We publish here a report filed for CISA by Fr Conrad Chibango, secretary for social communications of the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops, Conference: The Wednesday programme included an address prepared by the Apostolic Nuncio to Zimbabwe, Archbishop Edward Joseph Adams and ceremonial greetings and messages by representatives from neighbouring bishops' conferences. The representatives included Archbishop Telesphore Mpundu of Zambia, Archbishop Tarcisius Gervazio Ziyaye of Malawi and Bishop Patrick Mvemve of South Africa. Fr Frederick Chiromba, the Secretary General of the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops, Conference delivered the address of the Nuncio since the latter had not managed to come to the plenary session. Monsignor Juan Antonio Cruz Serrano represented the Nuncio. Prof Walter Kamba spoke about Constitutionalism and Social Transformation in Zimbabwe. Dr. Roy Musasiwa, the Principal of Domboshawa Theological College, discussed the implementation of the vision and values suggested in the National Vision Discussion Document. Other speakers included Dr Ranga Zinyemba, Dr David Kaulemu, Mrs Gertrude Chimhange of the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace in Mutare and Mr Darren Hercyk of the Catholic Relief Services. Prof Kamba, the first Vice-Chancellor of the University of Zimbabwe, delivered a strong and unambiguous analysis of the crisis in Zimbabwe. He said that he agreed with the bishops when they said in their pastoral letter that the crisis in Zimbabwe is, essentially, a crisis of governance. Democratic constitution Talking about a democratic constitution and constitutionalism, Prof. Kamba said these two terms are imperatives for sustainable, social, economic and human development of any country. They form the foundation that underpins sustainable social, economic and human development. He added that constitution and constitutionalism are the core of good governance, the exercise of political power in the management or running of a nation,s affairs. According to Prof Kamba, the high inflation, poverty, collapse of the economy and many service systems in Zimbabwe are only symptoms of a faulty foundation and bad governance. Good, competent, imaginative, cooperative, accountable, transparent management of national affairs is the bottom line for sustainable national development and if this bottom line is not there, you stand no (or little) chance of achieving success on sustainable development, he said. The Professor regretted that the demise of colonialism did not automatically deliver democracy. He said: "Independence constitutions were intended to guide the new governments but in fact, they did not prevent the governments from the arbitrary exercise of power and violations of human rights." Amendments For him, it was clear that the Lancaster House Constitution was not inspired by the people's ideas and consciousness and hence its amendments amounting to 17 in only 25 years. He considered it unfortunate that the nation rejected the Constitutional Commission Draft of 2000, a draft which was not only far much better than the Lancaster Constitution but also much similar to the one proposed by the National Constitutional Assembly Draft of 2001, except for few divergences which could have been gradually negotiated. Several speakers touched on moral values and the Social Teaching of the Church; these included Dr David Kaulemu, Dr Roy Musasiwa and Mrs. Gertrude Chimhange. Dr David Kaulemu, the Eastern and Southern Africa Regional Coordinator of African Forum for the Catholic Social Teaching (AFCAST) whose secretariat is in Harare, made a presentation on the Christian Social Teaching and Transformation His analysis was that after Zimbabwe attained Independence in 1980, the Church relaxed and let the Government, as it were; take over the formation of moral values instead of intensifying her effort to teach morals using its very important and all-time tool: The Social Teaching of the Church. The result was a decadence of moral and spiritual values in the society. Dr Kaulemu, a practising Catholic, challenged the participants to take seriously the Social Teaching of the Church if they were to promote any meaningful social transformation in the Church and society of Zimbabwe. Dr Musasiwa, who participated in the writing of the National Vision Document, said that once Zimbabwe has identified its shared values, it should include them in the national constitution. These values should be observed by institutions and be taught in schools and colleges. He lamented that our country is in such a sorry state because it has a great deficit of moral and spiritual values. Emphasising the importance of a shared national vision and the eventual advent of a new constitution, Dr Musasiwa said that "If the script is bad, it is of no use to change the actor while the script remains. A mere 'regime change' would not bring any permanent solution to the crisis in Zimbabwe, he said. Justice and Peace Mrs Gertrude Chimhange, the Director of the Catholic Commission of Justice and Peace in Mutare shared with the participants, the work that churches in Manicaland were doing in the area of the Social Teaching of the Church. A great achievement by these Churches was the publication of a handbook of the Social Teaching of the Church. Mr Darren Hercyk, the acting country representative of Catholic Relief Services (CRS) highlighted the important role that the Church should take in protecting and speaking on behalf of children. He said that children protection offices can be planted in every diocese and CRS would be ready to be partners in sustaining this initiative. According to Mr. Hercyk, over one million 600 children are orphans in Zimbabwe. Dr Ranga Zinyemba, Director of Ecumenical Peace Initiative for Zimbabwe (EPIZ), made a presentation on "What we are doing and what it will take to transform Zimbabwean Society". EPIZ is a secretariat formed by the three Church umbrella bodies including the ZCBC. It was created in order to facilitate the dissemination and collection of people,s views on the kind of Zimbabwe they want so that a shared national vision may be crafted by the January 2008. * The Catholic Bishops Conference of Germany have issued a statement expressing their support for the strong pastoral letter issued at Easter by the bishops of Zimbabwe on the deepening crisis in their country. Source: CISA

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