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Zimbabwe Government Criticized for Human Rights Abuses - 2003-09-26

More than a hundred clergymen from 59 Christian denominations have criticized the Zimbabwean government for human rights abuses.

The criticism came on Thursday in a strongly worded communiqué, following a meeting held by the clerics and representatives from South African churches earlier this month. The clerics likened the government to a biblical beast which, "usurps power and terrorizes defenseless people fermenting anarchy and lawlessness in the land."

The communiqué said there is a crisis of governance in Zimbabwe, with the rule of law undermined. It condemned the use of political violence against the opposition and what it called the selective application of the law.

The clergymen accused the present government of taking to "higher levels" a culture of violence that dates back to the colonial days.

They also expressed their dismay at draconian pieces of legislation including the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, which they say was recently used by the government to silence the country's only independent daily newspaper, the Daily News and to harass its staff.

The churchmen also condemned what they called the "indoctrination and abuse of young people in the so-called national youth service centers," saying the graduates of the centers are used as a youth militia who, alongside war veterans, commit serious human rights abuses and violence for the ruling party's political ends.

The clerics demanded that the National Youth Service be abolished immediately. They also called for an end to interference by the state in the day-to-day running of institutions of higher learning and the depoliticization of food aid, among other things.

They also called for the replacement of Zimbabwe's constitution, which they said does not nurture democracy.