By Own Correspondent
The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) has added it’s voice to that of several organisations that have condemned the vilification of catholic bishops by government.
In a statement, the human rights lobby group said it stands in solidarity with the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference (ZCBC) led by Robert Ndlovu following attacks by the government.
ZLHR said attacks on the voice of reason borders on outright fanning of hate speech which exacerbates the already porous political temperature currently prevailing in the country .
This comes after the Catholic Bishops in a pastoral letter highlighted and criticised state-sponsored human rights violations which did not go well with the Mnangagwa administration.
In response, Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa described the bishops as a “genocidal and evil-minded flock of misled narrow-minded bishops”.
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights in a statement said there can be no justification of this vilification of the clergymen.
The Law Society of Zimbabwe, National Movement for Catholic Students, Zimbabwe Council of Churches, Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions amongst other associations have rallied behind the bishops condemning the government for hate speech.
“As ZLHR, we are greatly concerned that the intolerance of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government on dissent and criticism is becoming more despicable every passing day and we should realise that it is the manifestation of President Mnangagwa’s and his followers’ fear on the people’s legitimate dissatisfaction from a leader who claimed and promised to be a “listening” President which is equally growing”.
ZLHR went on to say, “We have noted that in 2020 while the vilifiers and the vilified are different, the script is the same.The incendiary statements by government are aimed at inflicting shame on clergymen and to vilify their struggles that spring from righteous causes”.
Zimbabwe Lawyers For Human Rights also said that Section 60 of the Constitution provides for freedom of conscience and states that;
“Every person has the right to freedom of conscience, which includes— (a) freedom of thought, opinion, religion or belief; and (b) freedom to practise and propagate and give expression to their thought, opinion, religion or belief, whether in public or in private and whether alone or together with others.”
In addition section 62 of the Constitution provides that; “Every person has the right to freedom of expression, which includes freedom to seek, receive and communicate ideas and other information.”
ZLHR urged the Catholic Bishops not to tire in its quest for a just society .
“To the Catholic Bishops, always bear in mind the biblical verse in 1 Peter 5:8, which reads; Be alert and of sober mind .Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”
ZLHR further went on to call government to withdraw its intemperate and inflammatory statement and urges it to embrace constructive criticism and the principles of good governance.