Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Update: ZEC & NGO Bills

Both the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission & Non-Governmental Organisations Bills went through Committee Stage last night/this morning, after much resistance from the MDC benches and many Divisions, and both are referred to PLC for the Amendments passed. It has been misreported in today's "Herald" that MDC has agreed to the Bills - this is very far from the truth! We were out-voted on every Amendment proposed by our side - and we proposed extensive Amendments to both Bills.

There has been no major amendment to either Bill. It is expected that Parliament will not sit next week (post-Budget week), so the Bills are unlikely to be passed before Tuesday 7 December at the earliest, unless in an unusual move they are pushed through after the Budget tomorrow.

Indeed the much-touted Amendment to NGO Bill on "Governance" to apply only to first-generation human rights issues was WITHDRAWN by Minister Paul Mangwana last night! Now ALL "NGOs" involved in human rights work and governance issues will be banned from receiving foreign funding.

Parliament is not sitting today, but will reconvene for the Budget presentation tomorrow afternoon.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Cricket Boycott

Christians Together for Justice and Peace

We, Christians Together for Justice and Peace, an informal, ecumenical group of church leaders meeting in Bulawayo, write to express our strong moral opposition to the series of one day matches between England and Zimbabwe which are scheduled to take place in Bulawayo and Harare in the coming weeks.

Like the many church and civic leaders who have already protested against this tour and the brave cricketers from the English side who have refused to participate, we consider it to be wholly inappropriate for such a tour to go ahead at this time. We note with great sadness that Zimbabwean professional cricket has been hi-jacked by politicians who have imposed a political agenda on the game and racist criteria in the selection of the Zimbabwean players. It is a matter of great regret to us that a once popular sport which brought our country much deserved acclaim in the international field has now been corrupted and is used by an unpopular regime to make political capital.

We recall the time when the people of South Africa were suffering under the yoke of apartheid and the international community imposed a sports boycott on the country in solidarity with the oppressed. The suffering of our people under the present tyranny in this country bears many of the same marks as that suffering, and just as those who were committed to the struggle for freedom and democracy in South Africa called for a sports boycott at that time, so now we support the call for a boycott of this cricket tour. In our view it is impossible to continue normal sporting relations in an abnormal society. Rather than pretending that things are normal (which is implied in such a tour) it is surely better to call attention to the political and humanitarian crisis now engulfing this nation, in order to address the causes of that crisis, and so move towards change, renewal and healing.

We therefore urge all Christians, particularly those who have a passion for cricket, to search their consciences and consider whether it is not their duty also to support the boycott which is being organised across the country. We do this, not to bring politics into sport, but rather to make a Christian statement about a sport which has already been heavily politicized, and severely damaged, by politicians who have no real interest in the game at all. Our concern is for justice and peace, for which we are all now called to make some sacrifice.

Christians Together for Justice and Peace
Bulawayo

18th November, 2004

Saturday, November 20, 2004

The Voice of the Suffering

Dear Family and Friends,

I met a very brave woman this week. Heather is 42 and married with two teenage children. Her 18-year-old son has recently left home and her daughter is at boarding school and about to write public exams. These are about the only normal things left in Heather's life after almost five years of hell. As we sat and talked Heather's phone rang almost incessantly, but we had time to have a cup of coffee together. It was very special coffee, home grown on their farm in Chimanimani.

Heather is the wife of an opposition Member of Parliament and she and her husband have lost everything in their determination to bring democratic governance to Zimbabwe. Being married to an MP hasn't meant chauffeur-driven limousines, exotic weekend retreats and lavish dinner parties for Heather. It has meant rape, torture, murder, arson, looting, and theft All of these horrors have become personal experiences as they have happened directly to Heather and Roy Bennett and their friends and employees in the last five years. None of the crimes committed against the Bennetts and their employees have been resolved. None of the perpetrators have been sentenced or imprisoned and none of the court rulings issued in favour of the Bennetts have been upheld or obeyed by Zimbabwe's police.

Being married to an MDC MP has meant fear, anguish and enormous personal sacrifice for Heather but amazingly, even now with her husband in prison, she is not angry and bitter or baying for blood and revenge. It is unlikely, but not yet clear, if Roy Bennett will be allowed to stand for Parliament again now that he has been convicted for pushing an MP to the floor and sentenced to a year in prison for the offence. Heather told me that even if Roy could never represent the people of Chimanimani in Parliament again, the five years have not been wasted. The Bennetts have stood up for what is right, spoken for those who cannot and helped build the New Zimbabwe we are all fighting for. Heather says at the moment she feels like she's flailing in a raging waterfall with demands tugging at her from all directions. But her focus is entirely on her husband, his safety and his health in prison. Heather can only visit Roy once every two weeks for ten minutes. All she can take him is a 50ml tube of toothpaste, a bar of carbolic soap, a small jar of vaseline, and 6 individual pieces of fruit. This ten minutes every fourteen days has become the focus of Heather's life and she said it takes every ounce of her self control to get through those ten minutes without crying.

For pushing an MP who was shouting abuse at him in Parliament, Roy Bennett is sharing a four-man cell with 17 other people. He is dressed in rags and working all day in the fields at Harare Central Prison. When I left Heather I drove past the Harare central prison this week so that I could describe the view. In temperatures of over 30 degrees C, men wearing ragged white shorts and short-sleeved tops trudge barefoot, without hats, in the burning sun carrying buckets. They walk to the river, bend, fill their buckets, and carry the water back to pour on the vegetables. Others carry hoes and they bend and weed between lines of straggling greenery, watched by a bored prison official.

For almost five years I have been writing this letter to the world about events in Zimbabwe. It is men and women like Roy and Heather Bennett whose unceasing bravery and determination have given me the courage to keep going. When I left Heather this week I was ashamed that all I could offer as thanks for their example and inspiration was my words. Roy Bennett did not steal or loot, burn, torture, rape, or murder, he pushed a man to the floor. If you would like to know more or would like to be involved, please email freeroybennett@yahoo.com.

If you are able to contact your local MP please ask them to expose this situation and lobby support for a fellow parliamentarian. If you could just help with signing a petition, please do so. Every name is wanted and needed as soon as possible, just write PETITION in the subject line and contact freeroybennett@yahoo.com. This letter is for Heather Bennett, a very brave woman who asks only for our voices.

Until next week, love Cathy

For full information on Roy Bennett please also visit my website: http://africantears.netfirms.com.

Copyright Cathy Buckle 13th November 2004

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Recommended Reading: Torture and Eucharist

Torture is the act of an oppressive State to assume mastery and control over bodies. It is one part of the State’s liturgy of power, where participants are scripted into a drama of obedience to the sovereign claims of the governing authorities. Eucharist is the Church's response to torture, where bodies are given over to God and incorporated into the Church's liturgy of love and sacrifice. The Eucharistic ethic includes re-membering those bodies who have been "disappeared," silenced, imprisoned, tortured and murdered.

In Torture and Eucharist: Theology, Politics, and the Body of Christ (Blackwell, 1998), William T. Cavanaugh describes the situation of the Catholic Church in Chile under the Pinochet regime, 1973-1990. The parallels with the situation in Zimbabwe are frightening.
  • The State banishes NGOs (non-governmental organizations) which monitor human rights abuses and offer relief to the victims of government corruption.
  • The State reduces the Church’s voice to "spiritual" things and tells the Church to leave politics to the politicians.
  • The State creates the conditions of disorder and then offers itself as a Savior for those very conditions. In effect, the State is both the menace and the protector.
  • The State destroys civic life and family life through its campaign of violence.
  • Then State, through intimidation and infiltration, corrupts the judicial system and law enforcement.
  • The State enacts a torture apparatus, both physical and mental, which seeks to destroy a person’s identity.
  • The State hijacks the education system to periodically offer "re-education" seminars and drill students on the "real" enemy and the "real" situation facing the nation.
  • The State removes all those mediating institutions which act as a buffer against the totalitarian claims of the State. In effect, the State works to create a society of individuals who are atomized and isolated from others who might share their pain and share their voice.
  • The governing authorities, fearing their loss of power, corrupt the electoral process to ensure their survival.
  • The corrupted States justifies victimizing its citizenry because of a past history of abuses. In effect, the oppressed become the unapologetic oppressors.
  • The State controls all media outlets (radio, print, television), removing any rival voices and feeding a steady stream of propaganda to the citizens.
These are just some of the parallels between Chile and Zimababwe. Cavanagh shows how the Catholic Church struggled to come to terms with this reality. The Church had to extricate itself from an uncritical position of support for the State. The Church "learned how to be oppressed." The Church, by virtue of being the Church, rivaled the idolatrous claims of the State and enacted the kingdom of Jesus by re-membering the broken, defending the defenseless and loving her enemies.

The book is essential reading for those considering possible responses to state-sponsored violence. It is both a thoughtful and relevant presentation of a political ecclesiology.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Mugabe Seeks to Ban NGOs

As expected, Mugabe's ruling party, ZANU-PF, is pushing through legislation which will ban all foreign-funded non-governmental organizations. This action is against the advice of the parliamentary committee which was asked to look into the constitutionality of such a decision. Here is the committee's report lambasting the proposed legislation.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Statement of Solidarity with Archbishop Ncube

Christians Together for Justice and Peace

We are an ecumenical group of church leaders, based in Bulawayo and representing a wide diversity of Christian traditions. We have a common concern for the kingdom values of truth, justice and peace and are committed to working together and supporting one another to this end, in Christian solidarity. The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Bulawayo, Pius Ncube, is a respected and valued member of our group.

We note with deep concern the recent personal attacks by Mr Mugabe upon Archbishop Pius and other church leaders. When interviewed on Sky News he made a scathing attack on the Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Desmond Tutu, labeling him “an angry, evil and embittered little bishop”. He proceeded to belittle the enormous contribution Tutu had made towards the ending of apartheid in South Africa, and then later in the interview linked him to Archbishop Pius with these words: “That’s another Tutu, the bishop, an unholy man. He thinks he is holy and telling lies all the day, every day”.

We have to say that we find these words so offensive and insulting that we cannot think any true national leader would ever utter them. Moreover it goes beyond a personal attack upon the revered church leaders concerned because within the Church, the body of Christ, “if one part suffers, every part suffers with it” (1 Corinthians 12/26). We therefore take Mr Mugabe’s words as a direct attack upon the Church itself. We feel the pain and share the offense of these harsh words directed at both Archbishop Tutu and Archbishop Ncube. If they are “angry”, “evil” and “telling lies” then, in Christian solidarity, so are we. In reality what we are witnessing here is a serious attack upon the Church itself – or rather upon that part of the body of Christ which the ruling elite has not been able either to cower into silence through fear or to neutralize through the promise of patronage. It is an attack upon what we might call the “Confessing Church” in Zimbabwe, alluding to the group of Christian leaders of that name who would not be cowed into silence or “bought” by the Nazi regime in Germany, but who bravely resisted that evil tyranny, at great personal cost.

If we are attacked or threatened by the powers then so be it. We are proud to take our stand alongside Archbishops Ncube and Tutu. Our mandate as church leaders in resisting an evil tyranny and in witnessing to the truth, justice and peace of the Gospel is derived from the Scriptures themselves. Specifically here we might quote the divine word given through the prophet Ezekiel:

“… this is what the Sovereign Lord says: ‘Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves ! … As surely as I live … because my flock lacks a shepherd and so has become plundered and has become food for all the wild animals …I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock. I will remove them from tending the flock … I will rescue my flock from their mouths, and it will no longer be food for them” (Ezekiel 34/2, 8, 10)
(Space does not here permit but it is worth reading the whole passage to feel the full force of the prophetic denunciation of the failed shepherds of Israel)

Let the Church of Christ stand together against all slanders and threats. We have a divine mandate to challenge and confront sin, especially the sin of the rulers which causes untold suffering to the children of God. Our allegiance is not to any human ruler but to the King of kings and Lord of lords !

Christians Together for Justice and Peace
Bulawayo

10th June, 2004

Monday, November 15, 2004

SA Churches Blast Zim Leaders

Zimbabwe Standard (Harare)
Bulawayo, November 14, 2004

A high-powered delegation of South African Churches on Thursday blasted Zimbabwean leaders and their African colleagues whom they said continued to cling on to power while their citizens were suffering.

Reverend Elijah Maswanganyi, who led the delegation that attended a week-long conference of the Association of Evangelicals in Africa held in Bulawayo, in solidarity with the people of Zimbabwe, said such actions deserved strong condemnation.

Maswanganyi said there was an urgent need of young blood in the leadership in Zimbabwe and Africa if the socio-political situation and economies of African countries were to improve. "The problem with our leadership today is that of holding onto power for too long and they seem not too keen to pass on the torch to others. The main reason for clinging to power is simply because of their sins, and they don't trust anyone."

He told the SADC delegates that the region urgently needed leaders with no chieftainship, autocracy and beliefs in royalty if southern African nations were to develop.

The 38 church leaders from 14 SADC countries - who attended the SADC churches solidarity conference, also strongly slammed the NGOs Bill which they described as "poisonous" and " detrimental to human life development".

They said only heartless and inhumane lawmakers during the time of Egyptian ruler, Pharaoh, could craft such "harsh and crude" laws .

When time came for Archbishop Pius Ncube to speak, the whole conference was temporarily stalled after Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) operatives invaded the room, outnumbering the delegates.

Ncube, however, did not present his address on the current Zimbabwe crisis at the scheduled time because of the CIO disruption. He did so on Friday morning amid applause from SADC church leaders who praised him for being "brave", "just" and "sincere" to the whole world.

Ncube said there was urgent need for the SADC region and the international community to exert more pressure on Mugabe and his government so that the country could return to the rule of law.

o Meanwhile, the churches on Friday signed a Bulawayo Declaration, which called on all the parties to work towards promoting good governance and leadership through biblical principles that will reduce political intolerance, violence and corruption.

Displaced Farmers in Zimbabwe





Appeal to the Methodist Church in Britain

Zimbabwe Memorial to Conference

BECAUSE:
Ordinary men, women, and children are arrested without valid cause in Zimbabwe (e.g. ‘praying in public’); because people are regularly beaten and tortured by the police, and left without food, water, or medical attention for days in Zimbabwe’s jails;

BECAUSE:
Little children and vulnerable adults are starving in the cities and countryside; because freedom of assembly and the press have been outlawed; because President Mugabe continues to refuse food aid even though 2.5 million people are at risk of starvation, so that the government can control the distribution of grain for its own political purposes;

BECAUSE:
The churches and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) who report on human rights abuse, hunger, political oppression, in Zimbabwe are persecuted; because laws make all protests and reporting of rights abuse illegal in Zimbabwe; because international aid to NGOs that support human rights has been cut off, and because the government has imposed a news black out, so that the suffering of the people and their slow starvation goes unreported;

BECAUSE:
Our Lord, Jesus Christ, has said to his Church: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour”;

AND BECAUSE:
Lack of public protest by the churches provides a plausible mask to a ruthless dictator;

BE IT RESOLVED THAT:
The Derby South Circuit asks the Methodist Church of Britain to stand with those who have the courage to speak out against the human rights abuses of the people of Zimbabwe;

THAT
We support the rights of individuals and churches in Zimbabwe to worship God in freedom, including in the church’s worship, her right to speak out against any individuals and institutions that oppress the body and starve the soul;

THAT
We support those churches and NGOs in Zimbabwe who feed the people, report on human rights, support the vulnerable, and announce the day of the Lord’s favour, when all of humanity and the creatures with whom we share God’s earth and heaven will have a fair share of the good gifts of God’s creation, meant for all to share;

THAT
We abhor the torture of Zimbabwe’s people, especially government-sponsored repression of the human dignity and human rights of the person, including the right to free speech, free assembly, free association, equitable distribution of food, land, clean water and air;

AND FINALLY THAT
We, the Methodist Church of Britain, will provide physical, financial, and spiritual assistance to the people of Zimbabwe to the best of our ability. We will speak out in the Parliament and the press to ensure that the sufferings of the people of Zimbabwe are not forgotten, and that we will work with other Churches and institutions to ensure that those who have fled from the repressive regime in Zimbabwe are given asylum, food, shelter, and counselling.

Monday, November 01, 2004

About this Site

Christianity is a solidarity movement and has always been one. From the beginning, Christians have confessed that God has entered in solidarity with creation in Jesus Christ. As Saint Paul has written, "God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself." God’s work continues in our work, as we seek for the restoration of all creation. This means, reaching out to the broken and oppressed, defending the defenseless, and speaking up for those who cannot speak for themselves. In this ministry of pain-sharing, we are called to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice.

This website aims to be a voice for the many who have no voice, the citizens of Zimbabwe who are suffering under the oppression of an evil king. Here we tell their stories, recognize their hardships, whisper their prayers and share their hopes. Together, with them, we look forward to the day when the heavens above will shower down justice and peace in a dry and weary land.