Catholic Bishops volunteer as election observers

7 March 2013

PRESS STATEMENT BY THE CATHOLIC BISHOPS OF SOUTHERN AFRICA

Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Sao Tome e Principe,  South Africa, Swaziland, Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe is facing a referendum on its draft Constitution soon and Presidential and Parliamentary Elections later. Peaceful elections, free of violence and intimidation, are an essential part of building the nation. We as Bishops wish to contribute to peaceful elections by volunteering as election observers in cooperation with the relevant independent election commission. Peace and stability in Zimbabwe will make for peace and stability in the SADC region.

The Church supports the building of a free and democratic State with a Constitution based on human dignity, human rights and duties.   As Bishops we are concerned with social justice for all citizens; we must protect the “widow and orphan”, the poor and neglected, the sick and unemployed, in word and deed. In that sense the Church is present in politics, but not in party politics.

Democratic elections should be a non-violent alternative to a violent struggle for power and civil war. It does not make sense, and it is indeed a contradiction, if elections are fought over violently, leaving participants badly wounded or dead with their houses burnt down. All peace lovers opt for the “ballot rather than the bullet”.

Leaders have made it publicly known that violence is not the way forward. We appeal to the security forces to heed the call of their leaders. Young people are not to be abused as political tools in campaigns to intimidate voters.

The peoples of Southern Africa should aspire to a new political culture, based on tolerance.  Tolerance accepts the opponent as a fellow human being and child of God.  There should be no attempt to destroy the other as an enemy. In this spirit candidates that lose an election accept the verdict of the people.

The assurance of the President in his meeting with the Bishops of IMBISA gives hope to the ideal of peaceful elections for which we continue to pray.

Bishop Frank Nubuasah, President of IMBISA

IMBISA: The Inter-Regional Meeting of the Bishops of Southern Africa.

The Inter-Regional Meeting of the Bishops of Southern Africa, known as IMBISA is an organ of Liaison and Pastoral Cooperation between Episcopal Conferences of Angola and São Tome & Principe (CEAST), Lesotho Catholic Bishops’ Conference (LCBC), Mozambique Catholic bishops’ Conference (CEM), Namibia Catholic Bishops Conference (NCBC), Southern Africa Catholic Bishops which is made up of Botswana, South Africa and Swaziland (SACBC) and Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference (ZCBC).

The Region has 78 ecclesiastical territories (Archdioceses and Dioceses) and 101 Bishops. At the moment IMBISA is the only Regional Conference that is made up of two language groups, that is English and Portuguese.  http://www.imbisa.org.zw/