11 April 2008

Zimbabwe: Catholic Church Proposes Annan to Mediate Crisis

Pretoria — Ahead of a meeting of regional heads of state on Saturday, the Catholic Church in Southern Africa accused President Robert Mugabe's government of impunity and lack of respect for the democratic process following delayed release of presidential results of the recent election.

The Church called for international mediation to end the political stalemate that has engulfed Zimbabwe since elections on March 29. Presidential results have not been declared two weeks after the polls.Regional leaders will meet in Lusaka, Zambia, over the crisis.

Archbishop Buti Tlhagale OMI, president of the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference, said on Thursday that the Zimbabwean situation 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."

Archbishop Tlhagale urged South African President Thabo Mbeki, regional and other African leaders "to use all of their influence and skill to intervene for the release of the Zimbabwean election results."

The delay in releasing the results amounted to impunity and lack of respect for the democratic process, the archbishop said.

"The postponement of the release of the results has only fuelled tension and fear in Zimbabwe. 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."

As SADC prepare for an emergency meeting regarding the crisis in Zimbabwe, Amnesty International expressed serious concern at reports of post-election violence targeting perceived supporters of opposition parties.

The organisation called on the police to end political violence and investigate any allegations of police and army involvement in some of the incidents.

According to information received by Amnesty, incidents of post-election violence are widespread - suggesting the existence of coordinated retribution against known and suspected opposition supporters.

Victims of political violence were reportedly pulled from buses and assaulted at their homes in rural areas, townships and farms.Violence has been reported in Harare, Mashonaland East, Midlands, Matabeleland North and Manicaland provinces.

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