Bishops say Zimbabwean president must be forced to step down

CAPE TOWN, South Africa – Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe must be forced to step down, said the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference.

“It is now time to isolate Mugabe completely and to remove all forms of moral, material or tacit support for him and his party,” the conference said in a Dec. 18 statement issued by Cardinal Wilfrid Napier of Durban, conference spokesman.

“As world leaders and people everywhere express their horror at the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe, we, the Catholic bishops of South Africa, Botswana and Swaziland, add our voice to the cries of those who insist that no effort must be spared in ensuring that a political solution to the current impasse is found,” it said.

Zimbabwe has few basic foodstuffs, prices double every 24 hours and, the United Nations reported Dec. 18, more than 1,100 people have died in the country’s cholera epidemic.

Aid agencies say that more than 5 million Zimbabweans face starvation and that two-thirds of the country’s children are not attending school.

“No true liberator or statesman clings ruthlessly to power as Mugabe has done while his people live and die in misery and destitution,” the bishops’ conference said.

“No solution to the crisis in Zimbabwe is possible as long as he is there,” it said.

The conference said it is “deeply saddened that after eight years of mediation all the talk has born no fruit.” Mugabe “has continued to cling to power, waging war against anyone suspected of not supporting him and refusing to share any real power with those who beat him” in March elections, it said.

Hopes of an end to Zimbabwe’s political crisis were raised when Mugabe, who has ruled for 28 years, signed a power-sharing agreement with the opposition in September, but little progress has been made in setting up a unity government.

Meanwhile, the conference noted South Africa’s “crucial role” in facilitating change in Zimbabwe and said it is “extremely disappointed at the inability” of the region’s leadership, including South African President Kgalema Motlanthe.

The South African government “has the capacity to force Mugabe to go” but lacks the political will, it said.

“We therefore call on President Motlanthe to stop immediately all collusion with Mugabe and to cut off any lifeblood that South Africa is offering him,” the bishops’ conference said.

It is time for those African leaders who have stood in solidarity with Mugabe “against the supposed machinations of former colonial and present imperial powers” to redirect their solidarity “toward the needs of the suffering people of this once-thriving country,” it said.

In consultation with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, and with civil society organizations, “consideration must be given to the cutting off of electricity and fuel supplies from South Africa,” it said.

Catholic Review

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.