by Fr Chris Townsend, Information Officer of the SACBC, on behalf of Archbishop
Buti Tlhagale OMI, President of the SACBC. Pretoria
– May 13, 2008

‘A run-off election in Zimbabwe will not be possible
without an immediate end to intimidation, violence and torture and the
deployment of reliable international election observers.’

Out of concern for the people of Zimbabwe, the Bishops of the Catholic Church in
Southern Africa appeals for international and regional pressure to end the
systematic intimidation, violence and torture in Zimbabwe. The current environment
is not conducive to free and fair run-off elections.

Cardinal Wilfred Napier, Archbishop of Durban, and I
visited Zimbabwe
recently and were told first-hand accounts of systematic intimidation, violence
and torture. The victims identified the perpetrators as agents of the Zimbabwe
Armed Forces, the Police, the Central Intelligence Organization (C.I.O), War
Veterans, Youth Militia and plain thugs.

These human rights abuses are visited not only on
those who are thought to have voted for the opposition, but also on those who
assisted the Election Process, such as Polling Officers.

This ‘reign of terror’ has seen many deaths, savage
beatings and flight from family, homes and communities. Human dignity is
intrinsic to every human being, regardless of political affiliation and must be
respected. I call on all political parties to reign in their supporters and end
this horror.

I question whether a ‘free and fair’ run-off election
is possible unless there is a will to stop this violence. International
Election Observers should be deployed immediately to assess both the remote and
immediate preparation for the run-off election.

I call on all Zimbabweans to remember the hope with
which they entered the March elections so well expressed in the call by civil
society in the document ‘The Zimbabwe we want’ and to do all in their power to
restore Zimbabwe to its rightful place in the family of Nations.

Archbishop Buti Tlhagale OMI,
Archbishop of Johannesburg.
President of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC).