Catholic voices of the voiceless: the politics of reporting Rhodesian and Zimbabwean state violence in the 1970s and the early 1980s
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Some of the worst atrocities of state violence perpetrated by the Rhodesian state were published and disseminated around the world in 1975 thanks to the Rhodesian Catholic Bishops’ and the Catholic Commission on Justice and Peace’s links to human rights organisations in London. In contrast, when the Zimbabwean state carried out similar atrocities against civilians in 1983, the Catholic Bishops and the Catholic Commission on Justice and Peace decided to cooperate internally with a Government of Zimbabwe (GOZ)-led commission announced to investigate claims against government soldiers rather than press the case internationally. The Catholic Bishops and the Catholic Commission on Justice and Peace also interacted with foreign diplomats to help assuage their concerns over the security situation – most notably media reports of civilian massacres and torture – from the Midlands and Matabeleland provinces during Operation Gukurahundi. This article investigates some of the rationale for a different approach in the early 1980s based on changing alliances and allegiances of these Catholic organisations with the Rhodesian and then Zimbabwean state. This article forms part of a series of articles exploring how Zimbabwean and non-Zimbabwean actors rationalised the Gukurahundi period.