Thursday, 4 September 2003

Harare (Fides Service )- “The results of the recent municipal elections in Zimbabwe demonstrate that the people want a change, says a local Church source who asks not to be named for security reasons. Municipal elections on August 31st gave the main opposition party Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), a victory with 137 seats out of 222, in 21 cities, towns and villages. President Robert Mugabe’s party won 87 seats. Only 11% of the eligible voters placed their ballot. “The low affluence to the polls shows that the Mugabe government exercises powerful intimidation ” the source tells Fides.
“For years Zimbabwe has lived a situation of tension due to the President’s policies which unleashed his supporters against the opposition” say Fides sources. “Violence and intimidation have led many of the better qualified and educated people to emigrate. Doctors, teachers, qualified technicians have left Zimbabwe for South Africa, Botswana, United States, Australia, Canada and Europe”. “Consequently the health and school system have collapsed. A few years back Zimbabwe was once of Africa’s most advanced countries, now its problems are enormous: spreading unemployment, most of the people have no education or health care, the country’s once flourishing farming has collapsed, Zimbabwe wish used to export food now has to import food”.
“The country is on the brink of social and economic collapse” the missionary says. “To maintain power Mugabe relies on the army and police forces on the one hand and on the other groups of independence war veterans and militia of his party known as called “green bombers”. “This militia is most concerning because it is a threat to the future of the country. With the collapse of the school system and chronic unemployment many young men run wild. Many of them enlist in Mugabe’s army, where they get pay and military instruction focused mainly on extreme physical training. ”.
For some time there has been international pressure on Mugabe and his government. Fides source comments: “Although the international community has isolated Mugabe it is unable to bring about a decisive change in the country. What is more several African countries refuse to interfere with domestic politics, because they themselves have problems with democracy!”
The missionary adds: “Besides continuing its regular pastoral activity the local Church does its best to make up for the lack of state structures, particularly in the field of education and health care. But the spiritual care is most important and this work involves priests and religious who travel many miles day on difficult roads to carry the comfort of the Word of God to even the remotest villages ”. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 4/9/2003 lines 43 words 528)