Text of Archbishop Pius Ncube's Durban lecture

 The Archbishop of Bulawayo, Pius Ncube, gave the following speech for the Archbishop Denis Hurley Lecture in Durban, South Africa, last Thursday. Archbishop Denis Hurley, Brothers and Sisters; It is good to be able to speak in Church circles, I do not have to go through a whole list of protocol and titles, but as we are equal before God though different in our roles, it is sufficient to address everyone as brothers and sisters. I come to you today to appeal to you for prayers to ease out most serious situation in Zimbabwe and to appeal to you to lobby by all means possible for a peaceful solution to the Zimbabwean crisis. We face an absolutely desperate situation in Zimbabwe and the government is lying to the world about it. Our government continues to engage in lies, propaganda, the twisting of facts, half truths, downright untruth and gross misinformation, because they are fascists. My understanding of Christ and of the Church makes me believe that Christ is a prophet, a priest and a shepherd. (King). As a prophet He is a teacher to all nations and a carrier of God,s word. He stands against sin, falsehood and injustice; and we are tasked to do the same. As priest he is self-sacrificing and offering his life for others. He is prayerful, holy and God-centred. The Church is called to the same posture. As shepherd he defends the poor, the marginalised and the minorities. Jesus calls the Church to do the same, to uproot sin and oppression. Reading Luke 4:17-19/ Matthew 6:33/ Luke 17:20-21. As Christians and as Church we are not called to go along with society, rather we are called to preach the values of the Kingdom of God, namely love, holiness, humility, respect for others, and their property, peace non-violence; to feel for others, to be gentle, compassionate, understanding, to be sincere, to be truthful, to be human, to be integrated, to be whole. To put people first before things, to be God-centred, to forgive, to be self controlled, to be prayerful, to heal, to sacrifice ourselves for others; not to take advantage of others, to suffer for the truth; to judge ourselves before we judge others, to be joyful to be the salt and the light of the world; to respect the poor, to be renewed with God,s vision (to be born from above John 3:5), to be motivated by the Holy Spirit to be free and to free others (John 8:36) and to be full of hope. The Political Situation Politically, Zimbabwe gained Independence 22 years ago, and for the first decade things worked well although between 1983 and 1987, Mugabe, deliberately and with malice aforethought, killed up to twenty thousand innocent civilians in revenge for the fact that in wars against the Shona in the nineteenth century, before the arrival of the colonisers, the Ndebele killed, looted and took wives from the Shona, and in more recent times, followed a different political path to him and his party. There was then, an economic boom and unemployment was down to about 15%; Mugabe was prime minister, he attended Parliament and was sympathetic to the poor. The government spent a great deal of money to develop the people. Unhappily, everything changed politically three years ago. In 1999, Mugabe wanted to impose a new constitution on the country. To this end he appointed the whole of Parliament and about 400 others, to discover what the people would want in a new constitution. The people responded well, they wanted a maximum of two terms for the president, they wanted to limit the presidential powers and they wanted a senate, or upper house. When the draft constitution was drawn up by the Mugabe supporters, these demands were ignored and the new proposals gave even greater powers to the president. A referendum was held in February 2000 and the proposals were rejected. This was the first time the electorate had voted against Mugabe and his party. In the referendum it was clear that the white voters also rejected the new proposals. The result enraged Mugabe and almost immediately the violence began. Some nine months earlier, a new political party had been formed, the Movement for Democratic Change, (MDC) and Mugabe saw in the referendum results an alliance between the whites and the MDC. He also foresaw that he was in danger of losing power to this new party in the elections which were due in 2000. He reacted wildly to the defeat, called together his central committee and the politburo and plans were made for the invasion of commercial farms by the so-called war veterans, of whom perhaps only one third were genuine veterans of the liberation war, some were too young even to have been alive during that war. To briefly explain the land situation in Zimbabwe, I must say that the white commercial farmers had owned much of the productive land in the country and by 2000 there were approximately 4500 farmers on that land. Land reform was clearly needed but government efforts to redistribute land failed in the early eighties and the land question was put onto the government backburner. The government now brought it back into focus as it was the only card it had left to play. The first invasions took over about 1500 farms reducing production there to almost nothing. As time has passed all except about 600 farms have been occupied. The constitution was amended by Presidential decree and various laws changed to allow this all to happen, but the invasions were to serve as the jumping off point for grave violence to be perpetrated in the rural areas by these war veterans and other party members in the run-up to the elections in 2000 and the Presidential elections in 2002. Before the elections sixty people were murdered, some in the most gruesome fashion, many people were abducted and tortured, some simply disappeared. At the election ZANU(PF) gained 62 seats, the MDC 57 and another party one. The election were declared not free and fair by the independent monitors for a variety of reasons and the MDC brought court challenges in thirty-seven constituencies, to no avail. In any case Mugabe has the gift of 30 seats in Parliament, being 10 traditional chiefs, 8 Provincial Governors and 12 non-constituency MPs all of whom are Mugabe supporters. This result gave ZANU(PF) a majority in Parliament but not the two-thirds required to change the constitution so whenever a bye-election is called after the death of an MP, the polls are rigged to ensure a Mugabe victory. Mugabe is using the food crisis in Zimbabwe to force people to vote for his party, indeed every means to ensure victory are used, from bussing people in from other constituencies to using seriously bad arithmetic in the counting of votes. Before the Presidential elections, the Gallop poll indicated that the incumbent would gain no more than 45% of the vote and that the opposition candidate would receive 55%. In the event those figures were reversed, but all observers testified to the irregularities; the violence, the control of the media, the intimidation, the stuffing of ballot boxes and the falsification of figures. But Mugabe knew that the people had voted against him in substantial numbers and after the election he began to take his revenge, to punish the people. Any civil servant perceived to be sympathetic to the MDC, teachers, nurses, even policemen lost their positions. Ordinary citizens were hounded by state security agents, houses of the opposition in towns and villages were burned. As food became more and more scarce, only those who had ZANU(PF) cards could obtain food, men, women and children were, and still are, being deliberately starved. MDC members are refused attention at clinics and other health facilities and even shops are refusing to serve members of the opposition. ZANU(PF) is using every tactic it can to cling onto power, despite the fact that they have been in power for twenty-two years and some of them are past their prime. Currently, lawlessness by party members is endorsed, bribes are given to ensure silence over political and other crimes. People who murdered for the party are not prosecuted and the huge corruption which has characterised ZANU(PF) goes unpunished. Just to mention two parastatal companies, the Grain Marketing Board and the National Oil Company, the former lost some three hundred million and the latter nine billion, to corruption and although one Minister had to resign and another was charged with corruption, no action has been taken against anyone for this great loss to the country. One of the Minister is now the proud possessor of a huge fleet of busses and rural businesses. The judiciary, which was independent and courageous has been tailored to government needs and a man of questionable credentials has been appointed Chief Justice. Most High Court and Supreme Court cases are now decided in favour of the government so the constituency challenges and the challenges made by farmers over the land grab are now lost causes. The commercial farms which have been taken over have in many cases been given to senior party officials, their friends and families and we hear now that Gaddafi is demanding land in payment for the fuel he has supplied. The subsistence farmers who have been settled on other farms have not been given title to the land, or any assistance to begin farming so that production from the land in this cropping season will be almost nothing, meaning that next year will possibly be worse than this year. Top officials in the police, the army, state security, the air force and prison staff are highly paid so that they remain loyal to the government and they are used by government to intimidate, torture and generally punish the people. Some two months before the presidential election the leaders of the armed forces stated categorically on television that they would not accept anyone who did not uphold the "culture of the Revolution" as president and that they would only give allegiance to Mugabe. Subsequently new laws have been passed to intimidate and control civil society; the Public order and Security Act is even more draconian that its predecessor which was brought in by a colonial government and makes it almost impossible to hold any kind of political meeting or demonstration of any kind that does not favour government. The Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act controls every aspect of the media and reporting in the country. It also controls the reporters coming in to the country and demands huge sums for accreditation. The Private Voluntary Organisations Act is to be amended to ensure that no organisation, even within the Church, can operate without registration. All this is being done to destroy the opposition and to cling onto power, the arrests, the arson, torture and selective distribution of food all serve to keep the population under control. As recently as a month ago the government used all these methods to ensure victory in the council elections. In many cases, opposition candidates were not even allowed to register as candidates. The people in opposition areas were denied food and were seriously intimidated. In the event of a bye election, the war veterans and the party youth militia hold all night meetings and force the people to attend. Then the elections results are falsified to ensure victory for the party. At the recent Insiza bye election the result were almost exactly the reverse of the results in the 2000 election, 12000 for ZANU(PF) and 5000 for the MDC in an area which is clearly MDC. The Economy Because of the severely reduced production in Zimbabwe and because of the general situation, very little foreign currency is coming into the country, inflation is running wild, food prices have increased in some cases by 400% and there is a mass exodus of people including professionals, doctors, nurses, teachers, lawyers and other graduates who come to South Africa or go overseas to try to earn some real money to send home to their families. A year ago the US dollar would buy Z$300, it will now buy Z$1500. Unemployment is around 85% and the poverty datum line has risen sharply. Last year 400 industries or companies closed and, apart from the 400,000 farm workers who have lost their jobs, last year 300,000 urban workers lost their jobs, that is a huge percentage of the working population. Agricultural exports which brought in 40% of the foreign currency have dwindled to almost nothing since the end of the tobacco sales. Tourism, also a major contributor of foreign currency is now almost negligible. The closure of mines, the lack of investment, the removal of loans from the World Bank and the IMF all add to the acute poverty in the country. The people are demoralised, petty crime and prostitution are now the means of making a living; there is a proliferation of street children, destitutes, homeless and squatters, starvation is rife and I expect that because there are no seeds and farming inputs for this season, thousands will die next year. I believe that about 160 people in Matabeleland have already died from starvation. This is the worst starvation since colonisation in 1890 because even those with money cannot find the food to buy. Shortages of cooking oil, sugar, milk and in particular, bread and mealie meal are causing great hardship for most Zimbabweans. The Social Situation Zimbabwe is the second most affected country in sub-Saharan Africa with AIDS. Some 1,5 million Zimbabweans are infected and this has resulted in almost a million orphaned children in a population of some 13,000,000. Approximately 3000 people are dying each week and starvation has increased the death rate substantially as without nourishment it is almost impossible to ward off the effects of the virus. An AIDS levy was imposed by government two years ago but the money disappears into the pockets of corruption. Hospitals have no drugs, little working equipment, few doctors or qualified nurses; sick people are told to buy their drugs at the pharmacy but most cannot afford it. Some families spend three or four days without real food, some eat roots and seeds from the bush. Family conflicts and divorce have increased because of the stress in urban families. Many children cannot afford to go to school and end up on the streets. People are insecure and fearful but prefer to remain silent that to criticise or complain about government. The government is promoting racism against whites and sometimes against Asians, and tribalism against the Ndebele people. Top job opportunities are given mainly to Shona people even in Matabeleland so that the people there are punished and brought into subjugation. Municipal services such as sewerage and water supply breakdown and cannot be repaired due to lack of foreign currency to buy spare parts for the equipment. The gap between rich and poor is widening and the rich are very materialistic and opportunistic. Ministers and other Mugabe cronies are expert liars, they continue to blame this starvation on the drought when in reality, and everyone knows this, the food shortages are a result of the farm invasions and poor governance. While there is money for arms, aircraft, ministerial Mercedes abound while the people starve. The government did not plan to import food despite the fact that the minister of lands and agriculture was warned last year that there would be severe shortages this year. The land taken over by government in this redistribution process has remained largely unproductive for two years and where small scale farmers have been resettled no facilities were given them to allow them to start farming. The whole exercise has been corrupt and without any transparency. Young school leavers who wish to take up nursing or teaching or any government position, they are forced to go to the youth camps for militia training. These camps have become places of rape and promiscuity and when girls fall pregnant they often are forced to abort the child. My Appeal What I have said here tonight is but the tip of the iceberg; more and worse things are happening but go unreported and undiscovered. We therefore appeal to you for prayers to change the situation. We ask you to lobby wherever possible to apply pressure on Mugabe and his followers to change. Through his manipulation, the churches are divided. The Latin principle "divide et impera" divide and conquer apply here as well as the bribery of gifts to the deserving to buy their loyalty. With hope in God and trust in the good people of the world we know we will win. Thank you

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