Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
February 9, 2009
African bishops ask Mugabe to quit
'Appalling tragedy' in Zimbabwe means time for talk is over
BY BRONWEN DACHS
CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE
PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA — Unless southern Africa’s leaders stop their support of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, they will be complicit in passive genocide, the region’s Catholic bishops said.
The Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference called on Mugabe “to step down immediately” and urged preparation for “internationally supervised and credible presidential elections as soon as possible.”
“The appalling tragedy in Zimbabwe means that the time of talking is over,” the bishops said in a Jan. 26 statement.
The statement was issued in Pretoria, South Africa, where seven African heads of state, including Mugabe, gathered the same day to begin an emergency summit on Zimbabwe.
MEDIATION HAS FAILED
“Six months of talks have resulted only in a stalemate,” they said. “It is clear that the present mediation and negotiations have failed the people of Zimbabwe yet again.”
“Ten months after the harmonized elections in March 2008, widely regarded as expressing the will of the people of Zimbabwe, President Mugabe and his cabal cling to power illegitimately,” the bishops said.
The opposition Movement for Democratic Change won the majority of parliamentary seats in the elections and its leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, garnered the most votes in the first round of the presidential poll. But Tsvangirai boycotted a June runoff, citing violence against his supporters.
The 15-nation Southern African Development Community, known as SADC, “must stop supporting and giving credibility to the illegitimate Mugabe regime with immediate effect,” the bishops said.
The SADC has attempted to broker a resolution to Zimbabwe’s political impasse. South Africa’s former President Thabo Mbeki is its mediator.
COMPLICITY IN STARVATION
“Failing this, SADC leaders accept complicity in creating the conditions that have resulted in starvation, displacement, disease and death for ordinary Zimbabweans. This is nothing short of passive genocide,” they said.
The bishops called for the formation of a “coalition interim government of national recovery” and preparation for elections.
The deterioration of the economy, water sanitation and sewage systems, and health care in Zimbabwe has led to a dramatic shift in life expectancy, said a mid-January report by the nonprofit, independent group Physicians for Human Rights.
It said the health care system has collapsed because of the government’s egregious, systematic human rights violations.
OTHERS SPEAK OUT
Another group of South African Church leaders said they will “seek and facilitate the unity of the Church in Zimbabwe,” help to provide food aid through Church structures and “actively work for the downfall of unjust rule in Zimbabwe.”
After a two-day meeting to discuss Zimbabwe, the National Church Leaders Consultation, a group of more than 30 Church leaders including Cardinal Wilfrid Napier of Durban, South Africa, called for the intervention of the African Union in Zimbabwe’s crisis and the appointment of a new facilitator of the talks.
“Zimbabwe has collapsed. Mbeki is compromised and no longer suitable for the mediation process,” the group said in a Jan. 20 statement.
The SADC and the South African government have failed the people of Zimbabwe and Africa “through their so-called quiet diplomacy,” they said.