In a press statement on 27 September, the Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC) called for government officials to offer adequate information in order to ensure peace and justice in the face of panic buying of fuel and basic food items.
Fears abound that the country is facing a repeat of the 2007-2008 crisis that saw empty store shelves and fuel stations on the back of foreign currency shortages.
“We are addressing our message to both the duty bearers - the government itself as well as to the Zimbabwean citizens in general and also the church itself,” the statement reads.
The government of Zimbabwe has the duty to demonstrate its commitment to citizens’ welfare, peace and justice, the statement continues. “It must, through the different arms of the state, make sure peace prevails, by appealing to reciprocal actions for duty bearers and rights holders. The government needs to address the general perception that the current shortages are a result of bad economic decisions, corruption, greed and opulent living among those connected to power.”
The government must also address the fundamental deficiency of trust in society, the ZCC urged.
“Zimbabweans have lost trust that the government is sincere in addressing national problems when they see the government officials choosing to send their children to foreign schools and being treated in foreign hospitals,” the statement reads. “The conclusion is that they themselves have no confidence in the institutions they preside over.”
The government must seek broad stakeholder engagement to foster confidence and trust, the ZCC said. “The current situation can only be resolved by broader stakeholder participation and not under partisan politics,” the statement reads. “The government must also note that trust is not built by misrepresenting facts about the state of affairs.”
Trust is not be derived from coercion, the ZCC said. “No amount of propaganda can sustain lost trust and legitimacy,” the statement continues. “Trust can only be built on the foundation of truthful dialogue and transparency.”
The ZCC also implored citizens not to allow the current crisis to overtake them. “The worst that can emerge in such a situation of anxiety could be greed, stealing, corruption, bribery and violence especially against women, children and the most vulnerable,” the statement notes. “All these are vices that manifest in situations of uncertainty.”
If citizens go the route of selfishness because of fear of the unknown, they will make their situation worse, the ZCC cautioned. “We call upon the spirit of solidarity and sharing to influence the way we respond to the shortage of basic resources,” the statement reads. “We call upon Zimbabweans wherever they are to seek to contribute to a new Zimbabwe in which all will have access to the goods for their needs and not their greed.”
Finally, the ZCC urged the church to repent as much as it calls others to repentance. “We have seen some in the church who have taken advantage of the anxiety of the unsuspecting citizens to extort from them hard-earned money through different forms of religious manipulation,” the statement reads. “We reject as evil, all economic manipulation that masquerades itself as divine solutions to the current economic situation.”
The ZCC called upon church leaders to live modest lives and not to be driven by desire for opulence and extravagance in the midst of poverty.
“The church has a responsibility to speak truth to itself and to the world,” the statement concludes. “This is the moment of truth to which the church must respond.”