Mugabe regime suppressing dissent, Zimbabwean Christian leaders say

Politics in Zimbabwe has become "poisonous" and long-time President Robert Mugabe's regime is suppressing dissent and treating political opposition as treachery, according to Christian leaders in the country.

(REUTERS / Philimon Bulawayo)President Robert Mugabe gestures as he addresses a rally in Harare, Zimbabwe, November 8, 2017.

The Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops' Conference and the Zimbabwe Council of Churches have written and signed a joint statement denouncing the government's efforts to stifle dissent. Their accusations came after Mugabe fired Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Nov. 8 over claims that the latter had talked with witch doctors to look for ways to take over the country, Crux detailed.

"Our understanding of unity has been corrupted. It is now defined as conformity, passivity and not asking questions and anyone who raises questions is viewed as a sell out and this is now common in both our churches and in political spaces," said ZCC secretary general Rev. Kenneth Mutata. "Our ability to push diverse views and ideas has shrunk and for this reason our politics has become poisonous and there is no more civilized debate in our institutions."

In addition, Rev. Mutata said the ZCBC and ZCC will continue to denounce oppression and injustice in Zimbabwe. They also vowed to work together to promote good governance.

Since Mugabe came to power in 1987, Zimbabwe is said to have experienced a steep fall from being among Africa's most prosperous nations. His failed land reforms are reportedly to blame for this economic downfall. Many human rights groups have also accused him of gross human rights violations.

Meanwhile, Mnangagwa has reportedly fled for South Africa to escape assassins seeking his life, according to a close ally. However, he vowed to return to Zimbabwe to lead his people, The Guardian reported.

Mnangagwa's removal from his position presents Mugabe with his biggest political challenge in 20 years as opposition forces rally around the former vice president. The president has elevated first lady Grace Mugabe to Mnangagwa's former position, making her a possible successor to her husband.