From a special correspondent in Harare
KILLINGS and starvation in Zimbabwe's Matabeleland were reported this week in a Catholic magazine there while the Catholic bishops of Zimbabwe met to consider the seriousness of the state of the nation.
The Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops' Conference met in Harare on Friday to discuss the security situation in Matabeleland. The bishops represent five dioceses: Harare, Bulawayo, Gweru, Mutare, Hwange and the Apostolic Prefecture of Chinoyi.
A statement after the meeting said "The Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops' Conference met today to inform themselves of the seriousness of the situation in Matabeleland. On several occasions contact has already been made with government concerning this situation.
"The ZCBC having informed itself of the substantiated details of the situation are now considering their position and what action they will take."
But a less guarded statement of the Catholic position on the killings has come from Moto, a magazine published monthly in Zimbabwe by the Catholic diocese of Gweru. Moto :s history to date has been somewhat chequered. Originally a weekly newspaper it was closed down -by Ian Smith during the UDI period. .After independence it reemerged again. as a weekly newspaper. At the end of 1981 it ceased publication only to re-emerge several months later as a glossy mont hly.
Despite its ups and downs it is one of the few !remaining organs of independent opinion in the country. The government ' control the main newspapers.
Consequently its attack last week on the Zimbabwe government is all the more significant. The government position reflected in the official media is simply that the massacres alleged by Joshua Nkomo and various foreign correspondents have not happened.
Moto in its current issue does not say anything startlingly new. It simply reiterates the various media allegations against Zimbabwe and states in a three page feature article "Moto itself has received direct repOrts from unimpeachable sources that there is considerable evidence to support many of the allegations."
But for the Zimbabwean public such a statement breaking through the barriers of official denials is an open challenge to the government version of events.
The feature article quotes from letters from Matabeleland "The situation is very bad . . ." says one. "Is the army instructed to starve the people in order to wipe out the dissidents'?" The magazine refers to the government policy of stopping food relief to famine areas if dissidents are suspected to be there. "At a time when people in these
Areas are relying entirely on outside food supplies the effects of this is obvious."
In an editorial comment Moto says "Moto has heard from sources too varied and reliable to he discounted talcs of brutality, atrocity and killing which under any circumstances are unjustifiable . . some security forces' in Matabeleland seem less interested in dissidents than in terrorising the people.
Praising Robert Mugabe's proclaimed policy of 'reconciliation' Moto says "what is happening now threatens to tear that policy apart."
Despite obvious government disapproval of its contents, there has been no attempt to restrict the sale of Moto and none of the editorial board of the magazine which is led by a priest, Fr Plangger have been interned. It seems that in the week when Joshua Nkomo took flight the Zimbabwe government has more than enough to do than try to suppress a maverick journal.