Zimbabwe: archbishop calls for humility from new government

Independent Catholic News

Following the historic Zimbabwe power-sharing agreement, the Archbishop of Harare has called for “a lot of courage and a lot of humility” from its leaders to turn the crisis-hit country around.

Speaking to CAFOD staff in Harare, His Grace Robert Christopher Ndlovu said that he was cautiously optimistic for Zimbabwe’s future: “It is amazing to see them [Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai] coming together and signing that document ­ promising the nation that they will work together. It brings that big sigh of relief that at long last we are going somewhere.”

“I am cautiously optimistic, I think the differences have been very deep and it will take a lot of courage and a lot of humility on the part of our political leaders, to really turn the situation around Obviously it is never too late to change such situations.

“But one of the worrying things at the moment is that the nation needs a lot of healing. There has been a lot of violence in the last few months and there is a lot of bitterness amongst people.”

He compared the current situation to that which faced the country after its bitter struggle for independence: “We remember in 1980 when we reached the state of independence ­ all the destruction that had taken place in this country ­ yet people came together and built the nation. Now we have hit another snag! But with this signing I hope that it can help us again come together and rebuild Zimbabwe again, and as Christians, I think we need to contribute our bit to the process.”

The Archbishop was also very clear on the need for restrictions to be lifted on aid agencies trying to ease the chronic food crisis.

“I think the government will now need to open the [humanitarian] space and facilitate, because this space has been closed by the previous governmentwith the banning of the non-government organisations and restricting even the churches’ distribution programme.

“It has been extremely difficult – the bottle necks that have been put in place have meant that it has been virtually impossible to help the people and it is my hope that with this new arrangement the church, and indeed other non-governmental organisations, will be given the space to help our people in this moment of need.”

The Zimbabwean Catholic Church has a strong history of both providing care and support for those affected by the country’s economic, social and political crises and repeatedly challenging the Zimbabwean government to reflect the needs of its people.

It works in partnership with CAFOD in a food aid programme which targets 110,000 of the most vulnerable people across the country.

The Archbishop called upon Zimbabwe’s neighbouring countries to step up to the challenge of helping the new government: “There has been this dilly-dallying attitude in the region and it has been frustrating. I’ve had the opportunity to talk with some of those leaders and have had the opportunity to meet with President Mbeki himself so I’m hoping that now, they will really pull together and help the new government to live up to the commitments they have made.”

© Independent Catholic News 2008