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Friday, December 9, 2016
SA church and civil groups pledge support to Zimbabwe
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¬†The Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference issued the following statement yesterday following a two-day meeting in Pretoria. The South African Council of Churches (SACC), in partnership with the Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference (SACBC), the Centre for Policy Studies (CPS), the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR) and the Institute for Democracy in South Africa (IDASA) have held a two-day conference on 'Minimum Standards for Elections in Zimbabwe. The conference was held at the Burgers Park Hotel in Pretoria on 4-5 October 2004, Participants included delegates from Zimbabwe, including the Movement for Democratic Change, Zimbabwe Council of Churches, and many civil society representatives, as well as participants from the SADC region and other African countries, The conference was also addressed by the South African Deputy Foreign Minister, Aziz Pahad, representing the South African government, the African Union (AU), and the South African Commission for Gender Equality. We regret the decision by the Zimbabwean government and Zanu-PF not to participate in this conference, and commit to reach out to these and other key stakeholders to ensure future dialogue over, and participation in, the elections, The fundamental objective of the conference was to determine how the South African community can assist Zimbabwe in building a solid consensus on minimum election standards. We believe that some progress has been made, particularly with regards to the adoption of the SADC Guidelines and Principles Governing Democratic elections. However, March 2005 is not far away, and we are concerned that national, regional and continental consensus on how to proceed with the election still seems to elude all key stakeholders. We remain hopeful that the Zimbabwe government will introduce and implement comprehensive electoral reforms in strict conformity with the SADC Guidelines and Principles Governing Democratic Elections and the AU Electoral Standards. We are confident that SADC and other African leaders will also work to achieve this goal. We encourage South African civil society actors to continue deliberating on prospects for credible, and free and fair elections in Zimbabwe. The conference provided greater clarity on the challenges faced by Zimbabwe, and how we respond to these challenges as civil society. It is important to build on this and other initiatives. The parliamentary elections scheduled for March 2005 provide Zimbabwe with an historical opportunity to break with the recent and contentious past and revitalize democracy in Zimbabwe. This would provide Zimbabwe with a new beginning under which the country could begin to address its serious socio-economic challenges. We believe that South African civil society has a basic and moral obligation to demonstrate solidarity with the people of Zimbabwe. This conference marked the intensification of a process of active engagement by South African civic groups with our counterparts in Zimbabwe; it was not a one-off event. Through our combined activities we aim to: ∑ Identify ways of engaging Zanu PF and other political parties on the issue of minimum election standards ∑ Strengthen and develop our channels of dialogue with the South African Government and Parliament in order to facilitate more pro-active engagement at the regional level, especially with SADC and the African Union ∑ Facilitate the early deployment of election observer missions in order to help build public confidence in the electoral process We are collectively committed to identifying how South African civil society actors can pursue pro-active and constructive roles in working with others to build a viable and sustainable consensus in Zimbabwe on minimum election standards. We are committed to help ensure that the people of Zimbabwe are able to exercise their basic democratic right to participate in a credible, meaningful and transparent election, and to freely elect leaders of their choice and help shape the society in which they live. Issued by Dr Molefe Tsele (General Secretary, South African Council of Churches Mr. Kabelo Selema (SACBC Justice & Peace Director) Mr. Paul Graham (Idasa Executive Director) Dr Chris Landsberg (Centre for Policy Studies) Professor Charles Villa-Vicencio (Institute for Justice & Reconciliation
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