As events continue to unfold surrounding the resignation of Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe, Catholic bishops of the country have called for the prioritization of the nation’s best interests through peace efforts and a return to Constitutional order.
“The Church has keenly and prayerfully followed the recent tense events in the country,” read a Nov. 19 statement from a group of Zimbabwe bishops.
“We, your Shepherds, encourage those central to these delicate processes (particularly the Zimbabwe Defense Forces and the political leadership) that they maintain the best interests of the nation as a priority and continue to work tirelessly for a peaceful end to the crisis and to speedy return to normalcy and Constitutional order,” the statement continued.
The letter was signed by Bishop Michael D. Bhasera of Masvingo, apostolic administrator of Gweru; Archbishop Robert C. Ndlovu of Harare, apostolic administrator of Chinhoyi; Archbishop Alex Thomas of Bulawayo; Bishop Albert Serrano of Hwange; Bishop Paul Horan of Mutare; and Bishop Rudolf Nyandoro of Gokwe.
After Mugabe fired vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa two weeks ago, thousands of protesters took to the streets, calling for Mugabe’s resignation.
After being placed under house arrest in an apparent coup by the Zimbabwe National Army, an impeachment hearing was opened against Mugabe. He announced his resignation on Nov. 21, after a rule of 37 years.
The Zanu-PF Members of Parliament have brought charges against Mugabe, saying that he allowed his wife, Grace Mugabe, to usurp constitutional powers and also violated the constitution during elections.
He has also been accused of economic mismanagement. Currently, the average person in Zimbabwe is 15 percent poorer now than they were before Mugabe’s rule, according to BBC.
According to BBC, some MPs danced on the parliament floor as they heard the news of his resignation, and cheers could be heard in the streets.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May called the resignation an opportunity for Zimbabwe “to forge a new path free of the oppression that characterized his rule.”
President Mugabe was the world’s oldest leader at the age of 93 and had been in power since 1980. According to the state-run Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, former vice president Mnangagwa will succeed Mugabe.
During the upcoming transition of power and governance, the Catholic bishops encouraged the development of “free and fair elections, referenda and consultations,” while also prioritizing a nationwide respect for life.
“All life is precious. The preservation of lives must be paramount and for that, it is essential that peace, law and order be maintained especially in these most delicate times,” the bishops said.
In addition, the bishops acknowledged the need for patience during the political changeover.
“We ask that everyone exercises great restraint and patience in these tense times and that the people refrain from all lawlessness or any mass action that might worsen the situation,” urged the bishops.
“We also implore all opinion leaders, all media, and the entire population to refrain from conduct and utterances that increase tension, engender hatred or inflame emotions,” they continued.
Moving forward, the bishops of Zimbabwe highlighted the need for civil courts to bring justice to those who have caused the country harm, while also praying for a more tranquil future for the nation.
“Let us as one family continue to pray for a peaceful and just outcome to the present situation in our country. Let us join in daily prayers for our nation individually and collectively.”