The Herald (Harare)

7 May 2007

Zimbabwe: Pastoral Letter Malicious, Inaccurate -- Chombo

Harare — THE pastoral letter released by the Roman Catholic Bishops' Conference on April 5 this year is hateful, unfair, inaccurate, too general, malicious, insidious and, to some extent, diabolic, a senior Zanu-PF member and Cabinet minister has said.

The bishops should have consulted church members before releasing the letter that now threatens to tear apart the church.

Zanu-PF Politburo member and Minister of Local Government, Public Works and Urban Development Cde Ignatius Chombo, who is also a Catholic, said the pastoral letter departed from the usual charitable, unemotional and apolitical tone.

The pastoral letter, headlined "God Hears the Cry of the Oppressed", was issued and read out in Roman Catholic churches across Zimbabwe on April 5, the day when Catholics commemorate the institution of Holy Eucharist, the sacrament that should unite all people under Christ, the Saviour of the world.

He said discussions with two Roman Catholic bishops, five priests and some church members had actually led to the conclusion that the letter was malicious, diabolic, inaccurate and insidious.

"I have read this pastoral letter a few times and discussed its contents with two bishops, five Catholic priests and over a dozen church members from throughout our country. The people concurred with me in that the contents, spirit and tone of the pastoral letter of the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops' Conference was hateful, unfair, inaccurate, too general and to some extent diabolic," he said.

He added that the contents of the letter showed that imperialist agents were using the Roman Catholic Church through selected bishops to criticise Zanu-PF and its Government and President Mugabe in particular because of his principled stand on the land reform exercise.

"All along, it was the MDC that was used to express anger of the Westerners on the land reform. Professor Welshman's (MDC-Mutambara faction secretary-general) brother Archbishop Pius Ncube, who has been recruited together with a few South African bishops, have given themselves the mandate to be the chief Zimbabwe critics on behalf of the Western imperialists," he said.

Cde Chombo pointed out a number of areas the pastoral letter deliberately chose to ignore in pursuit of the bishops' desire to please Westerners.

He said the letter ignores the fact that Zimbabwe has for the past four years suffered under economic sanctions imposed by the Western countries who were not happy with an independent Zimbabwe.

"The pastoral letter should have called upon Britain and America to remove sanctions and to economically support the new black farmers in our country instead," he said.

He said Archbishop Ncube was at the forefront advocating for sanctions, which have also affected members of his church.

The pastoral letter is also silent of the rejection by the MDC of a legitimate and constitutionally elected Government led by President Mugabe.

Cde Chombo said the real crisis in Zimbabwe was the refusal by the British to accept that Zimbabweans have the right to elect leaders of their choice and to take ownership of their land.

"Their whole argument cannot convince us unless it is admitted Zimbabwe is being 'hammered' because it has embarked on a process that seeks to address colonial imbalances mainly the land matter in which 4 000 whites owned most of the productive fertile and well watered parts of the country whereas 13 million blacks were shunted to very sandy, unproductive and crowded parts of the country," he said.

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