Zimbabwe’s bishops and Jesuits have both recently issued appeals for reform in the country in order to improve the standard of life for its citizens.
In a pastoral letter issued 3 December, the African country’s bishops noted that three months after the July elections “there are no visible prospects for improvement in the spheres of life in Zimbabwe that cry for restoration to give people hope for a better life.”
They observed that Zimbabweans are now “more polarized” than before and during the previous “Inclusive Government” that lasted from 2009 to 2013. They also said these political fault lines are set “not only to deepen” but also to obstruct progress and peace.
The bishops cited daily water and power cuts, shortages of medicines and medical personnel, and poor sewage facilities. “The list of what reduces us as a people, our dignity and our hope for a better life, is long,” they said. But they added that the country’s abundance of human and natural resources mean that the poor standard of living “need not be like this.”
They called for the re-engagement with the international community, and the restoration of the economy, public services, and country’s historical reputation as the “bread basket” of the Southern Africa region. In particular, they advocated a team of experts and a charter to guide development.
And they drew on Benedict XVI’s call for a “new economic model’ in which individuals and institutions are inspired by “the principle of gratuitousness, of fraternity” to give their intellectual abilities, entrepreneurial skills and creativity to help communities to emerge from the current financial and economic crisis.
“What it takes to realize these aspirations of our people and country is political will at all levels of our society and institutions to work towards the achievement of the common good, political will to transcend differences in order for all Zimbabweans to work together as one family, all leading to sustainable peace in our nation,” the bishops said.
Similarly, Jesuits of Zimbabwe have said the wealth of natural and human resources of the country must benefit the poor of the country, not just its elite.
Writing in the magazine Jesuits and Friends, Fr. Roland von Nidda SJ, parish priest of St Peter’s Kubatana in Zimbabwe, noted that Zimbabwe’s wealth of resources includes “the best educated people in Africa, the biggest diamond fields in the world and the second largest platinum deposits world-wide. But not much of this wealth trickles down to the mass of the poor”.
He pointed out in his article that the poverty rate in Zimbabwe is estimated to be around 70%, unemployment is approximately 80% and the gap between the rich and poor is among the highest in the world.
“The small echelon of obscenely rich live in fine mansions, drive expensive cars, eat out in the mushrooming restaurants and shop in smart malls stuffed with luxury items,” he said. “Meanwhile, the great mass of the poor try to scratch a living on largely subsistence farming in their villages, or in the urban informal sector selling vegetables or goods bought from South Africa.”
Fr. Clyde Murope SJ of the Zimbabwe Province also wrote in the magazine, saying that having been “in the doldrums for more than a decade, Zimbabwe now needs both local and international support.”
“Development and growth is possible only if we all oppose corruption and complacency,” he said. “The government and other players need to be of a positive mind towards reconstruction and growth in social amenities.”