.- The Catholic Church in Southern Africa has called for international mediation to end a political stalemate in Zimbabwe, accusing President Robert Mugabe’s government of lack of respect for the democratic process. Mugabe’s regime has delayed the release of the results of the March 29 presidential vote causing the opposition to suspect tampering.
Regional heads of state have scheduled a Saturday meeting to address the crisis, and a leading Catholic bishop has called for a leader like former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan to mediate between the conflicting Zimbabwean factions.
On Thursday, Archbishop of Johannesburg Buti Tlagale, OMI, who is also president of the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference, said the situation in Zimbabwe had become a matter of regional, continental, and international concern.
“As President of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference and on behalf of the Catholic Community in Southern Africa, I call on the leaders of the Southern African Development Community and the African Union to act swiftly to diffuse this tension by mandating a mediator of sufficient international repute, such as Kofi Annan, to ensure a solution that is acceptable to all Zimbabweans.”
According to CISA, Archbishop Tlagale urged South African President Thabo Mbeki and other African leaders to intervene for the release of election results.
“The postponement of the release of the results has only fuelled tension and fear in Zimbabwe,” the archbishop said. “The credibility of a peaceful vote has been undermined by this delay and the posturing by political parties. This time of uncertainty has created an opportunity for lawlessness.”
Agenzia Fides reports that Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the main opposition party Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has accused Mugabe of committing a “de facto coup” by deploying military soldiers throughout the country. “It has been a tactic used to intimidate the people before voting,” said Tsvangirai, who is visiting other countries in the region to ask for their intervention.
Some Zimbabwean newspapers have published a memo allegedly from high-ranking MDC members outlining the means of tampering with election results, but party leaders have dismissed the document as a fabrication from Mugabe’s regime.
Amnesty International has reported widespread incidents of post-election violence. On Friday, according to the New York Times, the MDC said that Tsvangirai’s lawyer had been arrested.
Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa, head of the South African Development Community (SADC), said the Saturday SADC meeting in Luzaca, Zambia must address the crisis.
“Due to the worsening situation in Zimbabwe, I believe that the question should be addressed by the Heads of State,” President Mwanawasa said, according to Agenzia Fides. The Zambian president has distanced himself from the favorable attitude other African countries hold towards Mugabe’s regime. He has called Zimbabwe a “sinking Titanic.”
According to the BBC on Friday, President Mugabe will not be attending the weekend summit, but will send a government minister to the meeting.