Ecumenical News International

Global Christian leaders censure Africa for Zimbabwe failure

November 14, 2008

Geneva (ENI). Leaders of global Christian organizations have criticised African leaders for their failure to address a "growing humanitarian catastrophe" in Zimbabwe and for their failure to question the "illegitimacy of the current government" there.

In a statement on 14 November they called on" the Zanu-PF party [of Robert Mugabe] and the MDC [the Movement for Democratic Change] to form a government based on the will of the voters, true equity and in the interest of real and durable political progress, socio-economic transformation and national healing".

The statement is signed by the leaders of the World Council of Churches, Lutheran World Federation, World Alliance of Reformed Churches, World YWCA and the World Student Christian Federation. The general secretary of the WCC, the Rev. Samuel Kobia is a Kenyan, while the WARC general secretary, the Rev. Setri Nyomi, is a Ghanaian, and the LWF is headed by the Rev. Ishmael Noko, a Zimbabwean. Their counterpart at the YWCA, Nyaradzai Gumbonzvanda, is also a Zimbabwean.

"It is time to give priority to the people through servant leadership instead of self-serving power politics. It is also time for Africa's leaders to face up to each other with honesty and truth and take firm decisions that will provide a foundation for a durable solution to the protracted crisis in Zimbabwe," said the Christian leaders.

Joined by the Zimbabwe Advocacy Office in Geneva, the Christian groupings said they were making their request following a 10 November meeting of the leaders from the 12 nations making up the Southern African Development Community. The SADC leaders failed to agree on a way of overcoming an impasse in implementing a power sharing agreement for Zimbabwe brokered in September by the then South African president Thabo Mbeki.

Mugabe will not allow the MDC to control any of the ministries involved with security.
An MDC official said on 14 November it would not join any new government before its issues with Mugabe's party are resolved.

"Neither Robert Mugabe nor Zanu-PF has the legitimacy to form a government. The SADC resolution does not bestow Mugabe with the right to form a government. We will not be part of that, we will campaign against that illegitimate government," MDC vice president Thokozani Khupe told journalists in Harare.

The leaders of the Geneva-based world Christian groupings said, "We are deeply disappointed and saddened that the SADC leadership and Zimbabwe's political leaders have once again squandered an opportunity to take decisive, credible and transformative action in the interests of the right to life, dignity and democracy in Zimbabwe.

"By failing to fully address the growing humanitarian catastrophe and question of illegitimacy of the current government, SADC leaders have let down the people of Zimbabwe who dutifully went to vote for a new government on March 29, 2008 and are today still waiting for a government of their choice."

In that election the opposition MDC won a majority of the parliamentary seats and its leader Morgan Tsvangirai beat Mugabe in the presidential poll, but failed to get the 50 percent plus one vote required by the constitution. Mugabe handsomely won a later poll after Tsvangarai stood down citing violence against his supporters, but Mugabe's victory has not been recognised after accusations of vote rigging.

The Christian leaders referred in their statement to a severe cholera outbreak that has claimed hundreds of lives since August and they noted many more are dying each day. They said, "People living with HIV/AIDS have no access to life-saving drugs or food. Schools and hospitals are closing daily because there are no teachers, doctors, nurses or medicines. Millions of Zimbabweans are starving despite the best efforts of aid agencies.

"Church leaders in Zimbabwe have confirmed that many are now surviving on wild fruit. Gaining access to water, food, electricity and even cash from the bank has become a daily nightmare for ordinary Zimbabweans," said the statement. "Everyday women and children are bearing the brunt of these hardships as providers, care-givers and vulnerable members of society."

The statement noted that up to 4 million Zimbabweans "find themselves trapped in Southern Africa and beyond, unable to return home in the absence of a credible resolution of the political and economic meltdown. With a hungry and demoralised civil service, no one is taking proper responsibility to ensure accountable and efficient public service delivery."

The Christian leaders called upon SADC and the African Union, "to enhance transparency and broaden the talks to include civil society and churches to bring in voices from the streets, townships and villages. African leaders must re-commit themselves to protecting the integrity of elections and the right of citizens to freely choose leaders of their own choice.

"We further call upon the Zanu-PF party and the MDC to form a government based on the will of the voters, true equity and in the interest of real and durable political progress, socio-economic transformation and national healing. Unilateral decisions on the formation of the new government will only lead to further international isolation and exacerbate the suffering and misery in Zimbabwe."

They urged the United Nations, the European Union and, "especially the president-elect of the United States of America, Barack Obama" to mobilise and increase direct humanitarian support for the long-suffering people of Zimbabwe.



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