Zimbabwe: Catholic bishops condemn Mugabe government

 Leaders of the Catholic Church in Zimbabwe have condemned the "frightening" corruption, lawlessness and abuse of power of Mugabe's government. In an Easter pastoral letter, the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops' Conference said Mugabe had "failed to provide leadership that enables the creation of an environment that enhances truth, justice, love and freedom". Instead, they said, most Zimbabweans were "drowning in abject poverty", "suffering social and political violence" and being harassed by officials who "have placed themselves above the law". The bishops expressed outrage over the regime's practice of demanding that people in famine relief queues produce party cards before receiving food. "People's lives are at stake and the nation cannot afford to entertain the politicisation of food while people are starving," the bishops said. The government's "corrupt practices, poor planning and bureaucracy" were largely to blame for the famine, which is affecting seven million people. While Archbishop Pius Ncube of Bulawayo has consistently spoken out against Mugabe - until now most other Catholic bishops have said little about the human rights abuses of the government in Zimbabwe. Mugabe often attends Mass and could claim that the Catholic church supported him. In January, 260 Catholic priests denounced most of the Catholic bishops for "compromise with an evil regime". The bishops' statement endorses damning reports in the past week by the Commonwealth secretariat and the US State Department calling for "meaningful dialogue" and for "a balanced constitution that removes unjust structures". Both echo demands from civil society organisations and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change. On Tuesday, Mugabe's government announced that a meeting was being planned to consider declaring Archbishop Patrick Chakaipa, the head of the Catholic Church in Zimbabwe, who died last week, a 'national hero'. Such a decision would be an embarrassment to the church. The Archbishop supressed a report by the Commission for Justice and Peace in Zimbabwe on the massacre of about 10,000 civilians in the western provinces of Matebeleland in the early 1980s. A close friend of Mugabe, he also succeeded in getting him a special dispensation from his first marriage and solemnised his marriage to his second wife. She already had two children by him while his first wife was alive. Archbishop Chakaipa was Zimbabwe's first black bishop. He was consecrated in 1973 and blessed Zimbabwe's new flag at the country's Indepdence ceremony in 1980. Source: NewsAfrica/CISA

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