World Council of Churches

A worldwide fellowship of churches seeking unity, a common witness and Christian service

Minute on Zimbabwe

27 August 2004

WCC Executive Committee, Seoul, Korea, 24-27 August, 2004

1. There is long standing ecumenical cooperation and relationship between the
World Council of Churches and the churches in Zimbabwe, which dates back to
the country's struggle for independence. The ecumenical body and its partners
supported the liberation movement through the widely acclaimed Programme to
Combat Racism (PCR). The Central and Executive Committees have issued several
statements; also pastoral visits have been undertaken at different times. The
WCC has also supported and coordinated election monitoring.

2. Since independence, the unequal distribution of land remained unresolved.
While almost all Zimbabweans agree that a fair redistribution of land is critical,
the process has been a matter of deep division. There is also general agreement
among the churches in Zimbabwe on the rationale for land distribution. The disagreement
however continues to be on how the plan has to be executed. The adoption
by the government of the "fast track" procedure on the land question has
polarized and divided the country.

3. Following the loss of the constitutional referendum in February 2000, parliamentary
elections were held in 2001. ZANU-PF won by a narrow majority over
the newly-formed Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). The elections were
widely criticized by international observers as not being free and fair. In 2002,
presidential elections were held and Mugabe sought a sixth term. Morgan Tsvangirai,
the leader of MDC, challenged him, in particular. The elections were marred by
violence and vote rigging widely condemned as unfair and not free by international
observers, including a team of church observers coordinated by the ZCC,
the AACC and the WCC. Mugabe won the election but his victory was not accepted
by MDC and the political stalemate has been punctuated by growing instability,
chaos and violence. Parliamentary elections are scheduled for 2005 and
presidential elections for 2006.

4. The country has witnessed a collapse of its economy with massive shortages
of all basic foodstuffs, including maize, the staple food for most people, and other
essential items such as electricity and petrol. The collapse of the currency and
outright shortages of money have left the few who are employed with cash that
is hardly of any value. Zimbabwe's once strong health sector too, has collapsed,
and the country ranks as one of the highest in the world for HIV/AIDS with some
34 percent of the population positive and an average of 2,800 deaths a week from
AIDS-related illnesses. There has been a massive out-migration of Zimbabweans
both to southern Africa and overseas.

5. Human rights abuses are widespread and corruption has become rampant at
all levels of society. There is a breakdown of law and order, and the role of law
enforcement agencies is selective. Furthermore, attacks on civilians by extra-judicial
squads of politicized youth and so-called war veterans are a daily occurrence.
One of the most difficult problems facing the country as it approaches elections
- 2005 and 2006 - are draconian laws against freedom of expression. There is no
independent media and people therefore have to rely on information provided by
state-owned newspapers, radio and television.

6. As the Executive Committee meets in Seoul, the Zimbabwe Council of Churches
is organizing a retreat with the Heads of Member Denominations on the theme
"A Common Vision Towards a Zimbabwe We Want" from 23-26 August, in
Carribea Bay, Kariba. The church leaders are expected to discuss the current national
crisis and come out with a message and an ecumenical plan of action.

The Executive Committee of the World Council of Churches, meeting in Seoul
from August 24-27, 2004, aware of the national crisis of Zimbabwe:

• calls on the ecumenical fellowship to pray for peace and reconciliation in

• encourages the WCC through the CCIA to support the initiatives of the churches
in addressing the national crisis, including the urgent humanitarian needs;

• requests the General Secretary of the WCC to send an ecumenical team to the
churches in Zimbabwe as a sign of encouragement and solidarity;

• supports the initiative of the church leaders in Zimbabwe to convene a retreat
on the theme "A Common Vision Towards a Zimbabwe We Want";

• calls on the WCC through the CCIA to support the churches' mediation role
between ZANU-PF and MDC;

• urges the Zimbabwean churches to work towards constitutional reforms that
reflect the aspirations of the people on the principles of good governance, rule
of law and democratic norms;

• reiterates its support for the initiative of the churches to address issues of land
distribution, economic, social and political reforms;

• acknowledges the need for the international ecumenical family to assist the
Zimbabwean churches in their pastoral efforts for reconciliation and trauma
healing in Zimbabwe;

• calls on the WCC to urge the Zimbabwean government to end the political
violence and intimidation of civilians and repeal all repressive legislation and
unjust laws, such as the Public Order Security Act (POSA), the Access to
Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), and the Broadcast Service
Act, and also to request the government to provide a free political space, including
the complete overhaul of electoral laws and institutions, to enable all elections
to be held under free and fair conditions.