Stung by a stern rebuke over alleged mounting human rights abuses, President Emmerson Mnangagwa's government yesterday launched an astonishing attack on leaders of the Catholic Church, describing them as evil.
Harare Archbishop Robert Christopher Ndlovu was singled out by the government as "evil" and hell-bent on causing tribal divisions between Ndebeles and Shonas.
Ndlovu is the most senior leader of the Catholic Church in Zimbabwe.
The Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference on Friday published a hard-hitting pastoral letter bemoaning the deteriorating situation in the country and called for an end to human rights violations by security forces.
Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa yesterday accused the bishops of fighting Mnangagwa's administration in a highly charged press statement.
Mutsvangwa equated Ndlovu to a Rwandan Catholic Church leader during the genocide in that country Archbishop Arthanase Seromba, "who was the chief spiritual ideologist and violent practitioner of the 1994 Hutu-Tutsi genocide of Rwanda."
"These crimes against humanity took place during the Rwandan civil war that saw more than 800 000 Tutsi minority, pygmy baTwa tribe, and moderate Hutus massacred on such a large scale," Mutsvangwa ranted.
In a thinly veil threat against Ndlovu, the minister charged: "The infamous Rwandese Catholic archbishop would eventually be tried and sentenced to life imprisonment by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda."
She claimed the church leader was pursuing a regime change agenda.
"His transgressions acquire geopolitical dimensions as the chief priest of the agenda of regime change that is the hallmark of the post-imperial major Western powers for the last two decades," Mutsvangwa charged.
The bishops' reference to Gukurahundi appeared to have angered the government with the minister lashing out that Ndlovu wanted to divide the country on tribal lines.
In their letter, the bishops said "the suppression of people's anger can only serve to deepen the crisis and take the nation into deeper crisis.
"This comes on the backdrop of unresolved past hurts like Gukurahundi, which continue to spawn even more angry new generations."
Mutsvangwa said the assertion was tribal.
"Fellow Zimbabweans, Gukurahundi is indeed a dark spot in the tortuous task of nation building by Zimbabwe.
"The two parties of that needless chapter of history need to be hailed for seeking peace and unity as they avoided the abyss that could have been a full-blown civil war.
"Happily we ended up with the 1987 Unity Accord."
Ironically, Mnangagwa was State Security minister during the Gukurahundi massacres in Matabeleland and the Midlands.
Without proffering any evidence, Mutsvangwa accused Ndlovu of being part of the people that organised the July 31 protests against corruption.
Security forces were used to thwart the protests.
Investigative journalist Hopewell Chin'ono and Transform Zimbabwe leader Jacob Ngarivhume, who used social media platforms to encourage citizens to join the protests were arrested for allegedly plotting to topple Mnangagwa.
Several opposition and civic society leaders, including the MDC Alliance vice-chairperson Job Sikhala, who are accused of organising the protests, have gone into hiding after police indicated that they wanted to arrest them.
The clampdown against critics has alarmed various international bodies such as the United Nations and African Union, which have called on Zimbabwe to respect the rule of law.
Mutsvangwa claimed the bishops' pastoral letter was an admission that the July 31 protests had failed.
"Archbishop Christopher Ndlovu, you ardently call that the march has not stopped," she said.
"This is a pathetic admission of the failure of the 31 July 2020 uprising.
"By calling people to march in the midst of the pandemic, the bishop relishes the prospect of mass deaths.
"To him, maybe that speeds up the ascent of the populace of Zimbabwe to their biblical judgement of heaven or hell.
"No No No! His Excellency President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa will have none of that.
"He will strive to dutifully protect the wellbeing and health of the people of Zimbabwe."
Mnangagwa has dismissed South African government ministers, the AU, UN and other observers that have raised concern over the Zimbabwean situation, saying they were misinformed about the situation on the ground.