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Reconciliation is Still Possible

Reconciliation is Still Possible
A Pastoral Statement of the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops' Conference
Easter 1983







Government has made remarkable efforts at reconciliation ever since it first took office at Independence in 1980. Its essential task is to forge the many peoples of Zimbabwe into one nation, living at peace with itself and with others. In doing so, it must also remember to preserve the ethnic rights of the minorities within its borders.[1]

 2.Unfortunately the newly elected Government has had to contend with concerted dissident activity directed against both Government and people in increasing intensity. The dissidents have maltreated and killed a considerable number of persons who do not immediately support them in their cause. They have destroyed vast quantities of private and public property. They have even abducted children and held tourists to ransom. Nor have they ceased to do such things. To restore order, Government decided to deploy units of the army in the affected areas of Matabeleland.


3.We entirely support the duty of Government to maintain law and order, even by military means. What we view with concern are the many occasions on which certain influential people have inflamed the situation by their words, instead of seeking to pacify it.

4.We entirely support the use of the army in a peacekeeping role. What we view with dismay are methods that have been adopted for doing so. Methods which should be firm and just have degenerated into brutality and atrocity. We censure the frightful consequences of such methods.

5.Violent reaction against dissident activity has, to our certain knowledge, brought about the maiming and death of hundreds and hundreds of innocent people who are neither dissidents nor collaborators. We are convinced by incontrovertible evidence that many wanton atrocities and brutalities have been and are still being perpetrated. We have already forwarded such evidence to Government.

6.These brutal methods will have the opposite effect to what the Government is intending to achieve. It seems to us that it is again the unfortunate man-in-the-middle who is being crushed in this operation more even than the dissidents or their collaborators. But one thing is certain: violence such as that being perpetrated by a certain group of the army breeds bitterness, feelings of hatred and desire for revenge, which may lead to more violence in the future. Reconciliation and unity of hearts and minds could never be achieved by crushing innocent people. 'You cannot reap figs from thistles'. (Matt 7:16)

7.We had previously warned that security forces must not feel themselves to be indemnified in advance for unlawful acts committed against innocent or even suspected persons.[2]It seems that the Indemnity Regulations issued in July 1982 may have given certain units of the security forces the impression that they are above and outside the law.[3] Some of such units are reported to assert that they are responsible to no one but the Prime Minister alone.

8.Quite a number of public utterances made by not a few public figures seek to hide the atrocities that have taken place, hardening thereby the sufferings of the defenceless victims. Such tactics are self-defeating; we cannot see how they will lead the country to peace and reconciliation. Any society that is not built on the firm foundation of truth, honesty and justice is already doomed to failure.

9.In all this the mass media have singularly failed to keep the people of Zimbabwe properly informed of the facts which are common knowledge, both in the areas concerned and outside them through the reports of reliable witnesses. The facts point to a reign of terror caused by wanton killings, woundings, beatings, burnings and rapings. Many homes have been burnt down. People in rural areas are starving, not only because of the drought, but because in some cases supplies of food have been deliberately cut off and in other cases access to food supplies has been restricted or stopped. The innocent have no recourse or redress, for fear of reprisals.


10.We appeal to Government to exercise its authority to put an immediate stop to these excesses, and to appoint a judicial commission charged with the responsibility for establishing the truth, apportioning blame and distributing compensation, so that justice may be seen to be done and honour saved.

11.We repeat that we condemn all anti-social behaviour as being disruptive of unity and peace.[4] We urge all the people of Zimbabwe to commit themselves to reconciliation. We appeal especially to all Christian Churches to pray for those who are in great distress and to help them in any way possible, and to pray for the Government in their difficult task of trying to restore peace.

12.Reconciliation is possible: it is the compelling duty of everyone to put it into effect.




Archbishop of Harare

H. Karlen,

Bishop of Bulawayo

T. Chiginya,

Bishop of Gweru


Bishop of Mutare

I. Prieto,

Bishop of Hwange

H. Reckter,

Prefect of Chinhoyi

P. Mutume,

Auxiliary Bishop of Mutare





United by Consent, 1978, section 37.


Our Way Forward, 1982, section 10.


Statutory Instrument 487 of July, 1982.