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Note: This document is from the archive of the Africa Policy E-Journal, published by the Africa Policy Information Center (APIC) from 1995 to 2001 and by Africa Action from 2001 to 2003. APIC was merged into Africa Action in 2001. Please note that many outdated links in this archived document may not work.

Zimbabwe: Statements on Crisis

Africa Policy E-Journal
June 10, 2003 (030610)

Zimbabwe: Statements on Crisis
(Reposted from sources cited below)

This posting contains an open letter to President Robert Mugabe from progressive African American leaders released by Africa Action and TransAfrica Forum on June 3, and a pastoral appeal from the All Africa Conference of Churches released on June 6. Another Ejournal posting sent out today contains a press release and brief excerpts from the most recent Human Rights Watch report on the escalating crisis and deteriorating human rights situation in Zimbabwe.

On June 6, Bill Fletcher, Jr., President of TransAfrica Forum, issued another statement "Why We Spoke Out on Zimbabwe," available at:
why_we_spoke_zim060603.shtml [type URL on one line]

For a statement earlier this year from civil society groups in Zimbabwe, see>

For a 2002 statement on Zimbabwe from Africa Action, see interview with mayor of Harare, June 4, 2003 "Africa Leaders Must 'Rescue' Zimbabwe"

For current news see

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Open Letter to Robert Mugabe

Press Release

June 3, 2003

Contact: Salih Booker (202) 546-7961 at Africa Action Bill Fletcher, Jr. (202) 223-1960 at TransAfrica Forum

African American Letter to Robert Mugabe Condemns Political Repression in Zimbabwe

Black Trade Union Officials, Africa Advocacy Groups and Church organizations call for African diplomatic intervention and an unconditional dialogue among Zimbabweans to create a transition to democratic rights for all.

Tuesday, June 3, 2003 (Washington, DC) - Progressive leaders among leading African American organizations, trade unions, church and advocacy groups today released an open letter to Zimbabwean President, Robert Mugabe, to oppose the political repression underway in that country.

Highlighting long historical ties to the independence movements of Zimbabwe, the signators described the current crackdown on political opposition as, "in complete contradiction of the values and principles that were both the foundation of your liberation struggle and of our solidarity with that struggle."

The letter to Mugabe follows a process over the past several months where progressive African Americans have held a series of meetings with representatives of the Zimbabwean government and of Zimbabwean civil society both here in the U.S. and in Zimbabwe. The group concluded that it is time that African American progressives make a public statement on the deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe that so negatively affects the people of that proud country with whom the signatories have stood in solidarity for many decades.

Africa Action executive director, Salih Booker, said today that "We have a responsibility to our brothers and sisters in Zimbabwe to state clearly where we stand. And we stand for human rights and against the repression of the Mugabe regime directed against Zimbabwe's African majority."

The full text of the letter is below.

Open Letter to Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe

3 June, 2003

Dear President Mugabe,

We are writing today to implore you to seek a peaceful and just solution to your country's escalating national crisis. Those signed below are Americans of Africa descent - many of them representing major organizations of civil society in the United States - who have worked for decades to support the liberation movements of Africa and the governments that followed independence which promoted and protected the interests of all of their nation's people. We form part of an honorable tradition of progressive solidarity with the struggles for decolonization, and against apartheid and imperialism in Africa.

We have strong historical ties to the liberation movements in Zimbabwe, which included material and political support, as well as opposition to U.S. government policies that supported white minority rule. In independent Zimbabwe we have sought to maintain progressive ties with the political party and government that arose from the freedom struggle. At the same time our progressive ties have grown with institutions of civil society, especially the labor movement, women's organizations, faith communities, human rights organizations, students, the independent media and progressive intellectuals. In Zimbabwe today, all of our relations and our deep empathy and understanding of events there require that we stand in solidarity with those feeling the pain and suffering caused by the abuse of their rights, violence and intolerance, economic deprivation and hunger, and landlessness and discrimination.

We do not need to recount here the details of the increasing intolerant, repressive and violent policies of your government over the past 3 years, nor the devastating consequences of those policies. The use of repressive legislation does not, in our respectful view, render such actions justifiable or moral, because of their presumed "legality". We represent a long tradition of opposition to unjust laws. We have previously expressed to your representative in Washington, DC, our humanitarian concerns about the impact of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Zimbabwe as well as that of the famine triggered by the recent southern African drought and exacerbated by the economic policies and food distribution practices of your government. We have shared our concerns that land redistribution in Zimbabwe be used to fight the poverty of the majority and not to promote the narrow interests of another minority. But most of all, we have communicated clearly that we view the political repression underway in Zimbabwe as intolerable and in complete contradiction of the values and principles that were both the foundation of your liberation struggle and of our solidarity with that struggle.

Today, Mr. President we call upon yourself and those among the ruling party who truly value democracy, and wish to protect the future of all of Zimbabwe's citizens to take extraordinary steps to end your country's political crisis and place it upon a path toward peace. We ask that you initiate an unconditional dialogue with the political opposition in Zimbabwe and representatives of civil society aimed at ending this impasse. We call upon you to seek the diplomatic intervention of appropriately concerned African states and institutions, particularly South Africa and Nigeria, and SADC and the African Union, to assist in the mediation of Zimbabwe's civil conflict.

Mr. President, the non-violent civil disobedience that is growing in your country - such as that which took place on Mother's day in Bulawayo - is increasingly met with police brutality and excessive force. Such trends in the abuse of human rights are not only unacceptable, they are threats to your country's stability and they are undermining the economic and political development your people desire and deserve. We believe that a peaceful solution is possible for Zimbabwe if you find a way to work with others in and outside of your government to create an effective process for a transition to a more broadly supported government upholding the democratic rights of all.

Sincerely yours in struggle,

William Lucy, President, Coalition of Black Trade Unionists
Willie Baker, Executive Vice President, Coalition of Black Trade Unionists
Salih Booker, Executive Director, Africa Action
Bill Fletcher, Jr., President, TransAfrica Forum
Horace G. Dawson Jr., Director Ralph J. Bunche International Affairs Center, Howard University
Patricia Ann Ford, Executive Vice President, Service Employees International Union (SEIU)
Julianne Malveaux, TransAfrica Forum Board Member
Rev Justus Y. Reeves, Executive Director Missions Ministry, Progressive National Baptist Convention
Coordinating Committee, Black Radical Congress


All Africa Conference of Churches

June 6, 2003

[distributed by For additional information please contact Melaku Kifle of the All Africa Conference of Churches (

Messages of solidarity may be sent to AACC: "Melaku Kifle"< Catholic Bishops: "Archbishop Pius Ncube" <>, Zimbabwe Council of Churches:"Denson Mafinyane" <> the Evangelical Fellowhip c/o ZCC.]

To: AACC Member Churches


Dear friends,

The All Africa Conference of Churches has prayerfully been monitoring the political, social and economic developments in Zimbabwe as it often does with other African countries in crisis situations. It is with heartfelt concerns for the people and churches in Zimbabwe that we are sending this appeal to you.

Zimbabweans are experiencing a rapidly crashing economy marked by hyper inflation at 270% which is likely to reach 500% by end of year. With Zimbabwe bank notes in short supply, there is less money in circulation to keep the informal sector going. A critical fuel and electricity shortages have together forced the closing down of businesses, resulting in loss of jobs. Fuel prices have risen by 600% since February. Foreign export earnings are crippled and fuel supplied by Libya and China is being paid for with hundreds of thousands of hectares of land in barter trade. Drought-related famine that has hit the region has hastened the dwindling of the national food stocks.

The immediate impact of land reforms on commercial and food crop production has been the devastation of the agricultural sector. Out of a national population of 12 million people, 7 million are surviving on international food aid. Health service delivery is limping towards a halt while the high rate of HIV/AIDS has heightened the miseries of this situation. There is a huge migration of skilled and semi-skilled workers from the country, both a result of economic hardships and erosion of public confidence.

Human rights abuses are wide-spread; law and order have become greatly weakened in a very short space of time while corruption has become endemic. People are deeply frustrated and angered by what they see as poor governance. Support for political opposition front has been growing and has been met with a heavy show of force by the government.

The call for a national stay-away from work this week supported by peaceful street demonstrations was met with a threat from government to crush any street demonstration. There has been a huge show of armed military and police presence throughout all the cities since the weekend and along the roads ensuring a severe clampdown on any gatherings of more than two or three people in urban public areas since Monday. Government declared that stay-aways and demonstrations are illegal but the opposition contended that the people have a right to express themselves peacefully.

Meanwhile Zimbabwean church leaders have over the past month been trying to convince the major political protagonists that mediated talks are essential in order to find a way forward. The three national church bodies - Zimbabwe Council of Churches, Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference, and the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe - on Sunday June 1 issued a call for restrained action on the part of both protestors and government forces so that violence does not overtake peaceful options.

Churches within Zimbabwe are working from two approaches . The first has been to insist that those in positions of authority have the responsibility to listen to the genuine grievances of the people, in the spirit of service-leadership . Human rights abuses must be stopped and impunity must not be tolerated. The militarisation of youth must be stopped. The rule of law and order must be restored to the legitimate constitutional arms of the state. Legislation that oppresses freedom of expression must be repealed. Control of food, medical aid and other basic necessities of life must be depoliticised. A serious effort must be made to fight corruption and those who are found guilty must be brought to book. Violence as a means of curbing opposition or as a means of opposing government, must be stopped.

Secondly, is the urgent need for dialogue, and to offer non-partisan assistance for dialogue. This dialogue is needed at all levels in society. Divisions in society have been cultivated between ethnic and language groups, races, urban and rural dwellers, youth and adults, and adherents of different political parties, even between past and present. All of these divisions will need to be healed at personal, structural and systemic levels. It will require a healing of memories as well as a new definition of the Zimbabwean identity. Hence dialogue is a nation-wide task and requires everyone's input.

We appeal to our member churches to lobby their governments to support mediated dialogue between the government and representatives of the main opposition party. Although all problems cannot be solved by political parties, a political solution is an essential starting point.

Trusting in the promise contained in 2nd Chronicles 7:14, we ask your prayers for the present situation:

(i) for God's protection so that more lives will not be lost, that lives and property will not be destroyed, and that actions taken by both sides will not create an atmosphere in which dialogue becomes even more difficult.

(ii) for God's blessing upon the efforts of all peace-loving people within Zimbabwe and within the circle of support around Zimbabwe including those in churches, civil society and government who are trying to find ways to bring the troubles to an end and reunite the nation.

(iii) for the long-term development of Zimbabwe: that the people will find common identity, will seek reconciliation, and will build a peaceful nation that honours the sovereignty of God.

We wish all of you abundant blessings

Melaku Kifle

AACC Interim General Secretary

Cc Zimbabwe Council of Churches
Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference
Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe

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Date distributed (ymd): 030610
Region: Southern Africa
Issue Areas: +political/rights+ +economy/development+ +security/peace+

The Africa Action E-Journal is a free information service provided by Africa Action, including both original commentary and reposted documents. Africa Action provides this information and analysis in order to promote U.S. and international policies toward Africa that advance economic, political and social justice and the full spectrum of human rights.

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