Christian students say Zimbabwe's unity government is failing

By Ecumenical News International
June 24, 2009

Zimbabwe's coalition government has failed to address widespread hunger and human rights violations in the country, a national Christian youth movement has charged.

"The sad reality remains that the expectations of the public remain largely unmet," the Student Christian Movement of Zimbabwe said in a report released on 17 June 2009.

"It is sad to note that little has been done to bring about economic sanity in the country and most people are still living below the poverty datum line," said the students, noting that the majority of workers earn one to 3.5 per cent of what they need to meet the cost of basic needs.

The Consumer Council of Zimbabwe said in its latest report that an average family of five requires US$437 a month for basic commodities, while the majority of workers earn 100 dollars a month or less.

"The law enforcement agencies continue to enforce the law in a partisan manner and the culture of impunity for the police, who are the perpetrators of human rights violations, remains intact," the Christian students said. "Even the attorney general has clearly failed to demonstrate non-partisanship and independence.

There are still reported cases of retributive violence in some areas like Mutoko and disturbingly, none of the perpetrators has been prosecuted despite the fact that they are known within their communities."

In London on 20 June, Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, who reluctantly joined a government of unity with his old foe Mugabe, was heckled and booed by exiles in London's Southwark Cathedral when he said it was safe for them to come home.

Some reports have said that a secret security cabal from Mugabe's Zanu-PF party want to make sure that Tsvangirai, who won parliamentary elections and a presidential poll in 2008, does not succeed in the government of national unity role that began in February after being brokered by African leaders.

Tsvangirai, who was beaten and detained by Mugabe's police in 2008, tried to tell about 1000 Zimbabweans who came to listen to him in the London cathedral on 20 June that it is time for them to return home declaring, "There is peace and stability in the country."

On 18 June Zimbabwe riot police blocked a march by a group of women and beat up protesters, who were demanding greater participation of women in the writing of a new constitution.

At least 18 activists face prosecution on charges of seeking to overthrow the 85-year-old president, Robert Mugabe, who has held power since 1980. None of those in custody have been charged and legal experts dismiss the case as a ploy to harass Mugabe's opponents.

"The government of national unity has failed to resuscitate the social services delivery system in the country," the Christian students said in their report. "There is [a] need for concerted efforts from the so-called government of national unity to revive the education system, right from the infrastructure to service delivery, if we are to reclaim Zimbabwe's position on the continent."

Zimbabwe's main national university has not opened since the beginning of 2009 as the government has failed to raise money to pay lecturers who went on strike at the end of the previous year demanding higher salaries.

Note: Restrictive media laws and practice remain in Zimbabwe; hence ENI's correspondent is not named.

[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the Conference of European Churches.]

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