The Catholic Bishops of Southern Africa in a letter addressed to the SADC president, Angolan president Jos Eduardo dos Santos, said conditions to hold free and fair elections in Zimbabwe were still not conducive.
The Bishops from southern Africa who met in Pretoria were represented by clerics from Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Mozambique, Sao Tome, South Africa and Zimbabwe.
President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu (PF) party have said the country will go to polls this year with or without a new constitution which is being made.
“The Bishops call on SADC and the International Community to closely watch the happenings in Zimbabwe, particularly with reference to the possibility of an Election – which the Bishops hold to be dangerously premature,” the Bishops said.
“We strongly believe that holding elections at this stage would be dangerously premature. Conditions in the country are emphatically NOT conducive to elections in 2011.”
The clergy said the constitution making process is still not yet complete and behind the schedule while the voters roll remains in shambles. The Bishops said freedom of assembly and freedom of the media is still strictly restricted in the country.
“The Nation is in the grip of extreme fear; polarization is still evident; there are increasing signs of intimidation and/ or violence as the election campaign builds up,” the Bishops said.
“Should those in power choose to proceed with elections in 2011, then we assert emphatically that two things should be considered as preconditions for the said elections namely, 1) a roadmap leading up to the elections be put in place and 2) the elections be conducted in accordance with SADC’s Guidelines for Elections.”
The Catholic Bishops said ‘gains’ achieved by the intervention of SADC in the Zimbabwe crisis in the last two years ‘cannot be allowed to go to waste.’
“This southern African situation cries out for a solution that respects human dignity and social justice,” they said.