Cardinal Wilfrid Napier OFM, Spokesman for the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference, released a statement on December 18th calling for stronger action by South Africa and SADC (Southern African Development Community). In solidarity with the people of Zimbabwe, the statement declares that “it is now time to isolate Mugabe completely and to remove all forms of moral, material or tacit support for him and his party. Regardless of whether he is a former “liberator” or an “Elder African Statesman”, he must be forced to step down.”
Read below for the full statement.
South Africa Must Isolate Mugabe
1. 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. This is the
indispensable first step towards stopping the current collapse of the
country so that a new effort to rebuilding it can begin.
2. We are acutely conscious of the crucial role that South Africa has been
playing, can play, and has to play in facilitating a process towards
justice and peace in Zimbabwe. We are deeply saddened that, after eight
years of mediation, all the talk has borne no fruit. These efforts were
made in the hope that Robert Mugabe could be persuaded to negotiate with
the opposition in the interests of the Common Good of the whole Zimbabwean
nation. However, since he lost the election in March this year, he 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 the election. It is clear that Mugabe is not prepared to relinquish
control voluntarily, and that he is willing to watch thousands of innocent
people die of starvation and cholera as long as he is able to retain
power. Like Pharaoh he is obstinate and refuses to listen to the people
(Exodus 8:15). He will do so only if enough pressure is brought to bear on
3. We are extremely disappointed at the inability of the SADC leadership,
including the new South African President, to make any headway. The
apportioning of equal blame to all the Zimbabwean political leaders for
the political impasse is a travesty of justice and truth. Regardless of
what anyone may feel about the MDC, it is clear that they and especially
those who voted for them are the victims in this whole tragedy . They have
made major concessions which have not been reciprocated by ZANU (PF), who
must bear total responsibility for the current impasse.
4. It is now time to isolate Mugabe completely and to remove all forms of
moral, material or tacit support for him and his party. Regardless of
whether he is a former “liberator” or an “Elder African Statesman”, he
must be forced to step down. No true liberator or statesman clings
ruthlessly to power, as Mugabe has done, while his people live and die in
misery and destitution. No solution to the crisis in Zimbabwe is possible
as long as he is there. Some African leaders, to their shame, have felt it
necessary to stand in solidarity with Mugabe against the supposed
machinations of former colonial and present imperial powers; it is time
for them to re-direct their solidarity towards the needs of the suffering
people of this once-thriving country.
5. The South African Government has the capacity to force Mugabe to go.
All that is lacking is the political will. History will judge very harshly
the tacit support still given to Mugabe and the little (if any) support
given to his opposition as well as the total disregard for the people of
6. We therefore call on President Motlanthe to stop immediately all
collusion with Mugabe and to cut off any life-blood that South Africa is
offering him. In consultation with the majority party in the Zimbabwean
parliament, the MDC, and with civil society organizations, consideration
must be given to the cutting-off of electricity and fuel supplies from
South Africa. In addition, any assets held by Mugabe and his cronies in
South Africa should be frozen immediately.
7. We express our deepest solidarity with the people of Zimbabwe at this
desperate time. We recommit ourselves and our people to praying that
they will be able to unite and to have the courage and the strength to
persevere in the struggle to remove the evil brought on them by Mugabe’s
dictatorship and the armed forces he uses to enforce it.
All media enquiries to Fr Chris Townsend, Information Officer of the
Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference.
Cell: +27 (0) 82 783 4729