Statement from the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, the Most Revd Thabo Makgoba
The plight of the people of Zimbabwe is heart-breaking. Already bruised, broken and crushed by oppression and economic hardship before the elections, they are now even more divided, despondent and, in many cases, hopeless than they were before. At a time of growing global hunger, their situation is particularly acute - four million Zimbabweans depend on food aid and NGOs are reporting that in some areas political violence is making it difficult to supply food.
After the March 29 elections we were told that if there had to be a second round of voting in the presidential election, it would be held within 21 days. That date has now passed, and every day that goes by without the release of presidential election results erodes yet further any remaining trust people may have in the electoral process.
From the church in Limpopo Province, we receive reports that the influx of Zimbabwean refugees is steadily growing. Within Zimbabwe, those who have benefitted from Zanu PF rule are locked in fear of what may happen to them; those who support the opposition live in fear of retribution for voting against the government.
It is distressing to South Africans that our rulers, whom we know to be compassionate people, currently appear to many beyond our borders as heartless and unmoved by the suffering of Zimbabweans. We recognise that the imperatives of acting as honest brokers in a mediation impose constraints on our leaders. However, our failure to communicate our reverence for the dignity of every individual threatens the success of our diplomacy just as surely as would the perception of bias. I appeal to President Thabo Mbeki urgently to seek creative ways of reaching out to our neighbours to reassure them that we care about them deeply.
As a church committed to fighting the arms trade in Africa and the world, we strenuously oppose the sale and transport of weapons to Zimbabwe. We commend the successful efforts of the Bishop of Natal, the Right Revd Rubin Phillip, and the Diakonia Council of Churches to prevent a consignment of weapons for Zimbabwe from being offloaded in Durban, and I intend consulting with my brother bishops in Namibia and Angola on ecumenical action to prevent the shipment from being transported through their countries.
On the basis that a heavily-armed Zimbabwe would threaten peace, security and stability in southern Africa, we call upon the Security Council of the United Nations to impose an arms embargo on its government. We appeal to the South African Government to support such an embargo. We will ask our sister churches in countries which are also members of the Security Council to urge their governments to do likewise.
The Most Revd Thabo Makgoba
Archbishop of Cape Town