A statement from the Zimbabwe Council of Churches regarding the civil unrest and violence of January 14, 2019.
- Following the announcement of measures to deal with the fuel shortage crisis by His Excellency, President Emmerson Mnangagwa, many dissatisfied Zimbabweans chose to register their dissatisfaction through protests and other forms of civil disobedience on Monday the 14th of January. Peaceful protest is provided for in the Constitution.
- Regrettably, citizens’ protests and acts of civil disobedience have degenerated into violence, destruction of property, injury and loss of life. Information at hand suggests that some of those who got injured and killed were from gunshot wounds.
- Many Zimbabweans are struggling to make ends meet. The effects of price increases not only to fuel, but to basic goods and services such as health, education and food have made many people angry and desperate. They have deepened divisions and heightened disagreements.
- In this moment of national despair, Zimbabweans long for their leaders in government and all other sectors to show urgency and leadership in addressing their concerns. They are seeking confidence that their situation will be improved sooner than later. Many Zimbabweans desire a just distribution of both the gains and the pains of living in Zimbabwe as it goes through this transition. The current situation cannot continue like this.
- Therefore, the Church calls for an immediate end of all forms of violence. All Zimbabweans wishing to exercise their right to demonstrate are asked to do so peacefully and should desist from any form of violence and coercion.
- The Church pleads with those in the security sector to stop shooting civilians. We reject the use of violence and intimidation against those citizens exercising their democratic rights and fundamental freedoms in peace.
- The Church also urges all citizens of goodwill to assist those injured and comfort the bereaved. The Church also calls upon all public health facilities to ensure all those affected will access immediate help and treatment without discrimination
- The Church extends its condolences to all those who have lost their loved ones as result of violence.
- We would like to remind the people of Zimbabwe that the social, political and economic challenges facing our country cannot be resolved by political party itself. Zimbabweans need to find each other and to address collective challenges through an open, inclusive and solution seeking national dialogue in a climate of trust and national unity.
- The Church will therefore accelerate ongoing mobilization for all Zimbabweans everywhere to participate in the upcoming National Consensus Building Process to find lasting solutions to the pressing problems.
Church Civil Society Leaders Meeting
- Today, Church and civil society leaders met to reflect on the prevailing situation in Zimbabwe and took a strong position to reject the use of all form of violence. They called upon the State to restore the rule of law and constitutionalism in the exercise of State power and to consultatively revisit its economic policy trajectory.
- The meeting recognized that the neo-liberal and austerity policies adopted by the government of Zimbabwe in a bid to resuscitate the economy lacked broad citizens’ consultation and have already started to inflict severe hardship, discontent and social unrest.
- The citizens’ dissatisfaction with the current Government’s economic policy direction has been heightened by the apparent inaction of the government to address allegations of rampant corruption regarding foreign currency allocation by the reserve Bank, and the lack of transparency in the fuel and extractive of industries. This gives rise to the growing perception that public officials are the beneficiaries of this endemic corruption.
- The leaders recognized that world over, the imposition of austerity and neo-liberal policies without the full participation of citizens invariable resulted in fragmentation of society, curtailment of basic rights, and violent repression.
- The meeting therefore emphasized that a stable and inclusive economy based on re-distributive, inclusive, job-creation and local driven economic growth is essential to the achievement of a free and flourishing society where basic human rights are observed and respected.
- The meeting, which received reports from various parts of the country, learnt that violence, intimidation and arbitrary arrests targeting young men is rife especially poor urban neighborhoods and some rural areas. Other reports to the rise of criminal elements taking advantage of chaos to loot and steal. In some instances, gun wielding military elements are alleged to be at the forefront of the violence. The same reports point to the deaths of several women, men and children. There is growing fear, confusion and deep trauma amongst affected communities and individuals. Some among the injured and arrested are in urgent need of medication, counselling or legal attention.
- The meeting therefore called for the soldiers to return to their barracks, an immediate return to constitutionalism and respect of citizens’ right and freedoms. Pressing challenges affecting the majority of Zimbabwe citizens can only be resolves through peaceful non-violent engagement.
- Church and civil society leaders urge the president of the republic as the Commend in Chief of the Zimbabwe Defense Force to oversee an immediate return to constitutionalism by withdrawing soldiers from the streets and opening up an access to the internet and social media consonant with the government’s official position that the situation has returned to normalcy.
- The leader identified with citizens’ deep-rooted anger, frustration, despair over pressing challenge, and upheld their valid and legitimate right to protest. At the same time the meeting discouraged the use of violence, looting destruction of property, coercion and other distribution activities that can easily undermine the validity and legitimacy of the constitutional right to protest.
- Moving forward the meeting invited the State and the people of Zimbabwe to a consensus building dialogue to seek solutions and formulate a binding national vision.
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