Zimbabwe: Catholic leaders criticize regional heads for supporting Mugabe

 The support Southern African leaders' have shown Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe is "sickening," a South African bishop said last week. At the same time a priest in Zimbabwe said the region's governments are more interested in clinging to power than working for the common good. Mugabe was given a standing ovation at an August 16-17 Southern African Development Community (SADC) meeting in Lusaka, Zambia, where regional leaders failed to pressure him into enacting political and economic reforms. Zimbabwe is in deep economic and political crisis. Government figures released last week said inflation last month doubled to over 7,000 percent, the highest in the world. Only one in five Zimbabweans has a job. Applauding "a man who has destroyed a country" shows "utter lack of concern for the plight of Zimbabweans," Bishop Kevin Dowling of Rustenburg told Catholic News Service. He noted that the southern African leaders' refusal to sanction Mugabe shows a "dereliction of duty to their African sisters and brothers." Bishop Dowling was in Johannesburg after meeting with fellow members of the Solidarity Peace Trust, an ecumenical group of church organizations from Zimbabwe and South Africa. "You can't buy any basic foods in Zimbabwe now. The shelves (in stores) are empty, Yet Mugabe pretends there is no food crisis," he said. The UN World Food Program says 3.3 million people face severe food shortages in Zimbabwe, where a government ban on price increases has forced manufacturers to close or cut back their operations. "It is a tragedy of enormous proportions," Bishop Dowling said. "Our neighbors are still reluctant to take effective action against the collapse of Zimbabwe, even though Zimbabweans invading them are a threat to their stability," said Jesuit Fr Oscar Wermter in the Zimbabwean Jesuits' newsletter. While "governments are more interested in their own sectional interest," the church will insist on the "common good becoming Africa's first priority," Fr Wermter said. Mugabe is "spreading the propaganda lie that there are sanctions imposed against Zimbabwe on which he can blame the total failure of his economic policies," he said, noting that the 83-year-old president blames Zimbabwe's bishops for "not mentioning the effects of sanctions" in their Easter pastoral letter that said the country is in deep crisis. "There are no trade sanctions against Zimbabwe, only travel restrictions against the ruling elite which bar them from entering Western countries," he said. Zimbabwe's "economic disaster" is the result of the government's "consistent overspending, exceeding the budget and living beyond its means," Fr Wermter said. Source: CISA

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