Church urges SA government to intervene in Zimbabwe crisis

 Southern African's Catholic bishops have called on the South African government to intervene urgently in the refugee crisis facing their country. It is believe that more than two million Zimbabweans are now living in South Africa. Many hundreds are being turned away at the border each day. Many more have fled to other neighbouring countries. After the conference of Bishops of Southern Africa at Mariannhill near Durban on Wednesday a spokesman said that the Zimbabwean situation of "starvation and malnutrition, willful political violence and intimidation", and the "immoral" use of food aid by the Zimbabwean government demanded stronger and transparent intervention by African governments through the African Union. "With more than three million people displaced as a result of the crisis in Zimbabwe, a generation of exiles and refugees has been created," they said. We revealed recently that despite over two million Zimbabweans fleeing to South Africa, only eleven have been granted asylum. The bishops, who represent five million Catholics in the region, said the international community should take strong measures to ensure a "meaningful and honest" election in Zimbabwe in 2005. They said a generation of exiles and refugees has been created, and It was essential that there should be sustained, independent, international and regional monitoring of the pre-election process as a prerequisite for validating the election itself. Archbishop Buti Tihagale, the Archbishop of Johannesburg, said the South African government was not helping the churches and the non-governmental organisations to care for refugees. He estimated that 75% of the population of Joubert Park, Hillbrow and Berea in Johannesburg were immigrants from neighbouring countries. The archbishop said the churches could offer spiritual support, but did not have the resources for material assistance. The conference called on the Southern African Development Community governments, the African Union and the United Nations to consider "targeted sanctions" in both Zimbabwe and the Sudan, to prevent further suffering. Several members of the conference said they had personally witnessed atrocities during recent visits to Sudan.

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