24 April 2008

South Africa: Troops Option in Zimbabwe, Says Boesak

Cape Town — Two prominent South African clerics who returned yesterday from a fact-finding mission to Zimbabwe have called on the United Nations, through the Southern African Development Community (SADC), to consider sending troops into Zimbabwe to prevent the country sliding into a situation similar to Kenya.

Allan Boesak, head of the Cape synod of the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa , and Braam Hanekom, of the Dutch Reformed Church , who spent two-and-a-half days in Zimbabwe, also called on the African National Congress (ANC) leadership to reconsider its role, and whether it should become more directly involved.

Boesak said the ANC leadership, which clearly differed from President Thabo Mbeki on the issue, should get in touch with SADC "and raise the level of SA's intervention".

Describing what the group saw as a humanitarian crisis, Boesak said ordinary Zimbabweans were living in "abject fear" of reprisals by militia of President Robert Mugabe's ruling Zanu (PF) party.

Boesak said some of the things he had heard during the visit had taken him back to the "worst days of human rights abuses in the apartheid era".

The delegation, which visited Harare and three rural former Mugabe strongholds , which in the latest elections came out "strongly" for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), had been shown the "horrific" effects of repression by Zanu (PF) militia.

The delegation met political parties, locals, human rights activists and church leaders and had been shown pictures and evidence of the "horrific" methods of torture used by militias, wiping out half a village and killing livestock.

"These are people who as a result live in abject fear of reprisals and intimidation that is going on all over the country," Boesak said.

It appeared to be a tactic for the militia to be sent into areas where the MDC had made strong electoral gains, he said.

"You really have to say the crisis in Zimbabwe is visible at every level, whether economically, politically or in the ordinary subsistence and survival of people getting enough to eat, in the courts and in terms of (the) human rights situation."

Boesak said what was clear was that SA had not done enough so far.

He said ordinary Zimbabweans had made a point of letting the delegation know that they felt "almost betrayed by the process of mediation and methods that have been followed up till now".

He said among the specific concerns was the consignment of armaments from China that was destined for Zimbabwe via SA. "There is fear on the ground and people are deeply disturbed because they say these are weapons the Zimbabwean government wants to use against them," Boesak said.

He said the international community should force the Zimbabwe government to release the election results .

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