AFRICA/ZIMBABWE - The Bishops of Southern Africa concerned about the situation in Zimbabwe

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Harare (Agenzia Fides) – “We address a very particular plea to the political leaders of the SADC region (South African Development Community) at a critical time in the life of the Zimbabwean Nation,” write the Bishops of IMBISA (Inter-Regional Meeting of the Bishops of Southern Africa, meeting with the Bishops of Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Mozambico, Sao Tome e Principe, South Africa and Zimbabwe) at the conclusion of their 9th Plenary Session.
In a statement sent to Fides, the members of IMBISA “acknowledge the important role played by SADC in facilitating the Global Political Agreement (GPA) which led directly to the formation of the Government of National Unity (GNU).” They also recalled the courage of the three Principals in the GNU: President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara. “This was the fruit of a true African solidarity - something to be celebrated and a cause for great hope in the region. It promised a new dawn for Zimbabwe,” wrote the Bishops.
They continued, “However, two years later, we are concerned at the lack of meaningful progress: not all aspects of the GPA have been fulfilled within the agreed timeframe. Despite some improvements in the country we note that the ordinary citizens of Zimbabwe continue to suffer from, amongst other things: extreme poverty; high levels of unemployment; inadequate health and education services; lack of investment and confidence in the economy of the country. This is all the more tragic – and indeed a matter of grave injustice – when we consider the wealth of the country with respect both to its human and its material resources.”
Presidential and parliamentary elections are scheduled for 2011. IMBISA is concerned about the serious shortcomings in the leadup to elections: the GPA has not been fully implemented; the new Constitution is incomplete a long way behind schedule (“it is not known when the referendum on the Constitution will be held”); the Electoral Roll has not been updated; Freedom of Association and of the Media is severely restricted; the Nation is extremely fearful. There are increasing signs of intimidation and/or violence as the election campaign builds up. 46 people have been arrested while watching the transmission of the protests in Tunisia and Egypt, accused of preparing to “subvert a legitimate Government”. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 22/2/2011)