Interview : Pius Ncube, Catholic Archbishop of Matabeleland, Zimbabwe

Reprinted from The Common Good, No 40, Lent 2007

A vast human cull is underway in Zimbabwe and the great majority of deaths are a direct result of deliberate government policies. For example, last year under Operation Murambatsvina which sought to ‘drive out filth’, some two million people were forcibly evicted from as the police and army destroyed shanty towns and cracked down on informal traders. The population of Zimbabwe is now reduced to about 11 million, which include 1.3 million orphans. The economy has shrunk by 40% since 2000 and is still shrinking, though inflation runs at 1050% per annum. A staggering 42 000 women died in childbirth last year, compared with fewer than 1000 a decade ago. Ignored by the United Nations, it is a genocide perhaps 10 times as large as Darfur’s and more than twice as large as Rwanda’s. Journalist R. W. Johnson (The Press, 13 January 2007) was recently in Zimbabwe and interviewed Pius Ncube, Catholic Archbishop of Matabeleland, the most singular voice of opposition to the Mugabe regime, and a man described by Johnson as ‘driven to the limits of exhaustion both by his punishing workload in the 40°C heat and his own deep depression’.

Archbishop Ncube says:

What is going on is truly evil but I do not think they set out to kill people, it is just that they do not care.

Their only concern is to stay in power and enrich themselves and to turn people into terrified, compliant subjects. Some public killing is useful for that, of course. It frightens the rest. They have broken the confidence of the people. If you speak out, it is seen as odd, even mad, for there is a brotherhood of silence.

Only 20% of the people now are above the poverty line. We used to have 30% unemployment but now it is 80% – there are more Zimbabweans working in South Africa than are working in Zimbabwe, and the only thing that keeps us going at all is the flow of remittances back from these migrants.

Proper burial is important in African society but now many people have a pauper’s burial – no coffins, no service, no relatives present; the bodies are just thrown in a pit like cattle. Our young people cannot think of marriage because they are poverty-stricken. So many are just waiting to die. Some say to me there is no difference between life and death, that life has lost all its meaning.

The women suffer the most. At a certain point the men just walk away but the women are left with their children, watching them starve. We used to have universal schooling, but 50% of the children are now out of school because the parents cannot afford even the smallest fees.

Such children have no future. The only hope lies in the end of Mugabe. Some people pray for him to die but they are very scared. In any meeting of 20 people there will always be two informers.

Mugabe is a murderer and also a traitor – he is selling the country to the Chinese. It is lonely to be the only one to say that. People tell me that they pray for me but they are too frightened to speak out themselves. For myself, I shall not stop speaking out. I am perfectly willing to die.

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