Bishops say Zimbabwe polls premature

Johannesburg - Conditions in Zimbabwe are not conducive to holding an election in 2011, the Catholic bishops of Southern Africa said in a joint statement on Tuesday.

"As we write, we are aware of talk of - if not even plans for - the holding of elections in 2011. We strongly believe that holding elections at this stage would be dangerously premature," the bishops said.

Their statement was prepared at an Inter-regional Meeting of Bishops of Southern Africa held in Pretoria in December.

The bishops from Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Sao Tome e Principe, Swaziland, South Africa and Zimbabwe said they had tried unsuccessfully to convey their concerns to the leadership of the SA Development Community (SADC) for the past six weeks.

They appealed to the political leaders of the region that SADC be the "agent" which brought about "urgently needed recovery" to Zimbabwe.

The bishops expressed concern that two years after the Global Political Agreement (GPA) was signed, not all aspects of it had been fulfilled.

"... 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," they said.

Constitution incomplete

"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."

They did not believe an election could be held this year because the GPA had not been fully implemented, the process to form the new constitution was incomplete, the voters' roll had not been updated, freedom of the media and association was still restricted and Zimbabweans were "in the grip of fear" of intimidation and violence as election campaigns built up.

If those in power chose to proceed with the elections in 2011, then the bishops wanted as preconditions a roadmap leading up to the elections and that the elections be conducted in accordance with SADC's guidelines for elections.

"The positive gains achieved by the intervention of SADC, including the establishment of the GNU [Government of National Unity], simply cannot be allowed to go to waste," the bishops said.

In 2009, a deal brokered between long-time rivals Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai led to the formation of a coalition government in Zimbabwe.

Mugabe is reportedly pushing for fresh elections this year despite a deadlock over a new constitution that was supposed to precede the polls.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
Nappies, they cost too much
6% - 256 votes
Formula and food, it's getting so expensive
18% - 694 votes
Creche and school fees are a struggle every month
76% - 3009 votes
Vote
Rand - Dollar
16.01
-0.6%
Rand - Pound
19.83
+0.3%
Rand - Euro
16.79
-0.0%
Rand - Aus dollar
11.20
-0.2%
Rand - Yen
0.12
-1.5%
Gold
1,821.01
+0.3%
Silver
21.55
-0.4%
Palladium
2,028.00
-1.4%
Platinum
941.50
-1.5%
Brent Crude
111.93
-2.1%
Top 40
62,494
-0.8%
All Share
69,083
-0.9%
Resource 10
71,795
-1.4%
Industrial 25
76,804
-1.3%
Financial 15
16,026
+0.8%
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.

LEARN MORE