from Global Ministries' partner, Zimbabwe Council of Churches
Dear Mr President,
On behalf of the Zimbabwe Council of Churches I submit this Pastoral Letter to extend our congratulations on your election as the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe. In this letter we outline what we see as key priorities for your kind consideration. I assure you of our prayers, accompaniment and commitment where in your presidency you will pursue peace, unity, justice and wellbeing for all Zimbabweans. We pray that God may grant you wisdom and courage to unite the nation, protect the weak, heal the hurting, provide for all and lead as the President for all Zimbabweans.
The Zimbabwe Council of Churches has a long tradition of public witness for and on behalf of the poor and marginalised. Since 1964 we have not ceased in private and in public to pursue the agenda for national unity, justice, peace and prosperity informed by the Scriptures and our diverse Christian traditions in response to the pressing needs of the citizens. We shall continue in this tradition of public witness and prayerful action throughout your tenure. Our membership of 27 churches represents at least 3 million Zimbabweans from a diverse economic, ethnic, political and social backgrounds. Indeed we have in our ranks some who voted for you and others who did not. Amongst them too are the poor, disabled, unemployed, imprisoned and many others requiring urgent help.
Just like the state of Jerusalem of Nehemiah’s day, we also say “You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem (Zimbabwe) lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem (Zimbabwe), so that we will no longer be in disgrace” (Nehemiah 2:17). The nation has been and is in paralysis through fragmentation, inertia of mutually self-destructing political culture, corruption, policy incoherency and inconsistency, economic decline and international isolation. Further, the announced results show that the electorate is deeply divided. These are the areas we believe, by God’s help and the support of the church, you may want to immediately address:
Create a nation of reconciled equal citizens: Zimbabwe inherited its statehood of fragmented society from colonialism. This fragmentation has continued and deepened with time. There is ethnic division, political division, intergenerational division, rural-urban divide, class divisions, racial divisions, etc. With such deep divisions, Zimbabweans are not able to walk together as the scriptures ask rhetorically: “Do two walk together, unless they have agreed to meet?” (Amos 3:3). Zimbabwe will need to sit together and agree where they are hurting and where they need healing so that they can walk together. We need your leadership so that we may be formed from a state to being a nation. This will require that we are all healed from the wounds of the long and immediate past. National peace and healing and reconciliation should lead to a National Envisioning process where we agree as to who we want to be and where we want to go guided by an unwavering commitment to the constitution and upholding it above everything else.
Character of your Cabinet: To create a nation requires that you set up a team of men, women, and young people who are highly competent taken from all walks of life and all political persuasions. The first test of your intention to build bridges will be won or lost in the character of your cabinet. We persuade you to be bold Mr President and put the right people for the right positions. We are saying, no more jobs for the boys! Give hope to the nation by having qualified people in the right positions in spite of your own popularity. We as the church will support you if you choose to be right than to be popular.
Changing the spending culture: The past governments have always been accused of extravagant living, borrowing to consume instead of borrowing to invest. They have also been accused of corruption and lack of transparency. We plead with you Mr President to demonstrate your willingness to reduce government spending on non-essentials and invest more into health, education, infrastructural and industrial development. A leaner, technologically advanced and efficient public service will be key.
Coherency of policies: The past government has been accused of indicating left while turning right in terms of policy pronouncements and implementation. Many times populism has caused policy inconsistency and incoherency. We believe that a national vision generated by a broader stakeholder participation will represent the wider interested of society beyond partisan interest.
Concentrating on the low-hanging fruits: While invitation to investors is important, existing trade relationships with EU, Asia, Latin America can allow for quick gains. If we focus on 10 special agricultural products of great quality (flowers, tea, beef, fruits etc) that will be grown only for EU consumption, we can, in a short space of time bring in much needed foreign currency without losing our natural resources cheaply. Zimbabweans have suffered for too long; they will not be satisfied if there are no immediate gains such as availability of cash, clean and available water, clean cities, speedy response by police in case of reported crime, order in the roads (reigning in of public transport operators), zero tolerance to corruption. Citizens tend to know if leaders’ words are consistent with actions—they are unforgiving of perceived hypocrisy.
Clear command lines: Since November 2017, there have been rumours suggesting that there is fragmentation within the security forces and that the head of state is not necessarily in charge of some sectors of the security forces. Some people believe that the apparent division in the security forces is designed to deceive so that it is not clear who is accountable for what actions. The scriptures say, “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one” (Matthew 5:37). To give citizens a proper sense of security, we suggest that you take up comprehensive security services reforms to delineate the roles of the different forces as well as confirming each sector’s constitutional mandate. The church is willing and able to contribute the to the security services chaplaincy capacity for cohesion through peace building and conflict transformation training.
Cautious openness: Zimbabwe has been isolated by other nations for some time now. The natural instinct is to open up and invite the world to come and invest in Zimbabwe. We believe there is not nation that can thrive today without opening itself to the world. But we are cautioning that this bust be value-based and done with the poor in mind. Exposing Zimbabweans with very limited resources and capacity to compete to the world without may lead to new forms of colonialism. Transparency in the deals with would-be investors will help reduce the vulnerability of the nation. Through our international ecumenical relationships, we are willing and able to partner with your government towards a value-based international re-engagement agenda.
Creating a new politics: Our politics is toxic, shallow, personal, not value-based, and not inclusive. This politics does not always attract the best brains on the land since reasonable people find it uncivilised. You will either be remembered for maintaining this kind of politics, or you will facilitate its evolution into a space for competition of ideas. We hope you will help our politics not to be divisive and entrenching patriarchal stereotypes. We hope you will exorcise our politics of all forms of violence. Improvement of internal democratic processes and a culture of respectful debate supported by an objective and mature media will contribute towards this goal. The church, as a non-partisan actor, is willing and able to convene such spaces for rigorous engagement and respectful debates.
Safeguarding the Constitution: Our progressive Constitution gives us the promise of freedom, justice and equality. It remains our greatest safeguard against all forms of hegemony and oppression. Without it our shared commitment to democracy, good governance, and rule of law cannot be realised. There is an outstanding task of aligning the laws to the 2013 constitution. The church is willing to support a programmatic alignment of laws to the constitution by mobilizing its constituency to accompany the bill hearing processes. We are willing to support you, Your Excellency, as you serve as the key proponent for constitutionalism and a defender of the Constitution against arbitrary amendments and abuse.
- Convening space for prayer and reflection: The church considers prayer to be an important resource for mobilizing the energies of the nation towards the common good. We are encouraged by Apostle Paul who says, "First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving he made for all men, for kings, and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way." (1 Timothy 2:1-2). We are grateful that you recently attended the Prayer Breakfast we had organized. At that breakfast prayer meeting, you encouraged us to plan more such prayer meetings at which you will be present where possible. You can be rest assured that we continue to pray for you. As we pray, we also extend our offer of principled, value drive and non-partisan commitment to supporting your administration in efforts for unity, peace, justice and prosperity for all Zimbabweans.
I remain yours in Christ’s service,
Rev Dr Kenneth Mtata
Zimbabwe Council of Churches