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Zimbabwe - Expression of concern about pre-election repression and violence

13 April 2000

Letter sent to Mr Densen Mafinyani, General Secretary, Zimbabwe Council of Churches, 13 April 2000.

Dear Densen,

The World Council of Churches has been following with mounting concern the news from Zimbabwe in recent weeks. Reports we are receiving from various sources, and increasing requests to us from constituents and the press to comment on evolving events in the run-up to elections prompts us to write now to seek your assistance.

According to our information non-violent demonstrations are being severely repressed by security forces, and people are being jailed for what appears to be only their attempt to use the right of free expression of views. The encouragement of President Mugabe of the occupation of White farms is reported to have led to serious threats to Zimbabwean citizens and acts of physical violence. Given the fact that these invasions of property are being encouraged despite decisions of the Zimbabwean courts barring them is widely questioned around the world, and could have serious implications for Zimbabwe's international relations. All these together give the impression of a massive breakdown of the rule of law. Combined with the already tense economic situation they appear to threaten widespread chaos.

We have taken note with appreciation of the Communiqué issued by the "Workshop on the Role of the Church in Promoting Democracy and Good Governance: The Role of the Church in the Forthcoming General Elections." The holding of the workshop does great credit to the ZCC and was a most encouraging sign of the witness the churches are providing. The analysis it has provided of the current obstacles in the electoral process is precise and enlightening. We have also been encouraged by the commitments taken by church representatives at the Kadoma Workshop, including a call for the elaboration of a "blueprint" on Land Reform before the Parliamentary election.

However, we are troubled by the stated intention of issuing press statements in support of "the current invasion of farms by war veterans." We share your concern that a just process of land reform is essential to complete the process of decolonization undertaken during the struggle for national liberation. Nonetheless, we are fundamentally convinced that this must be pursued in accordance with the law, and with respect for White farmers who have chosen to remain and to seek to contribute to the general welfare of the nation as loyal citizens of Zimbabwe.

We remain, as always, eager to accompany and assist you in whatever way the World Council of Churches can. To be able better to interpret your situation and the position of the churches to the wider ecumenical community we would be grateful for your interpretation of the current situation and guidance to us.

Awaiting eagerly your response, I reassure you of our fervent prayers for the ZCC and its churches, and for the Zimbabwean nation at this most critical juncture.

In Christ Jesus who reigns supreme,

Konrad Raiser
General Secretary