Catholic bishop urges South Africa to take political action to ease situation in Zimbabwe

.- The top Catholic archbishop of Zimbabwe is calling on South Africa to impose political pressures on President Robert Mugabe’s government, in an effort to stem the human rights violations in the country, Voice of America has reported.

In a statement last week, Archbishop Pius Ncube said South Africa is in a good position to put pressure on Zimbabwe and to force Mugabe’s government to change through sanctions, if necessary. Instead, South Africa chooses to remain silent, said the archbishop.

South Africa’s neighbor to the north continues to suffer what many are calling a total collapse, as Zimbabwe’s economy is in total collapse and its ruling regime fights to remain in power.

The prelate’s statement came as a civic group of exiled Zimbabwean dissidents in South Africa criticized African leaders for remaining silent about Zimbabwe. Europe and the United States have already condemned the situation. Yet, President Mugabe has remained defiant in the face of international criticism.

Ten days ago, several dozen opposition leaders were beaten while in police custody after they tried to gather for a prayer rally. One person died in the incident and several others were hospitalized. The group says dozens of other opposition activists have since been arrested.

According to Chris Moroleng, an analyst with South Africa's Institute for Security Studies, the confrontation between the Mugabe government and its opponents has entered a new phase.

The government is no longer waiting for incidents to occur. Rather, it is “preemptively attacking the opposition and civil society before a direct confrontation takes place," he was quoted as saying by VOA.

Defenders of South Africa's policy say behind-the-scenes diplomacy is far more effective than public statements, and broad economic sanctions would only hurt the Zimbabwean people.

Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa also criticized South Africa’s inaction in a March 16 statement.

Africans should "hang our heads in shame" at this week's suppression of the opposition protest in Zimbabwe, he said.

"What more has to happen before we who are leaders, religious and political, of our mother Africa are moved to cry out 'Enough is enough'?” he wrote. “Do we really care about human rights, do we care that people of flesh and blood, fellow Africans are being treated like rubbish, almost worse than they were ever treated by rabid racists?"

Last week, Zwelinzima Vavi, Secretary-General of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), said events in Zimbabwe showed that South Africa's policy of "silent diplomacy" had not worked, reported CISA.

The security group of the Southern African Development Community is to meet in a few days to discuss the situation.

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