Caritas Zimbabwe Urges End to Waiting

Calls Delay in Election Results a Recipe for Tension

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HARARE, Zimbabwe, APRIL 9, 2008 (Zenit.org).- The Caritas aid organization joined its voice to that of international and African leaders urging Zimbabwe to announce a winner to the March 29 elections.



In a statement released today, Caritas said "there is no possible reason to delay any longer the release of results in Zimbabwe's presidential contest other than to rewrite the final result."

Caritas Internationalis Secretary-General Lesley Anne Knight affirmed, "Failure to release the election results without any compelling reason is not justifiable. It is simply leading to the suspicion that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission is being manipulated to produce results against the verdict of the people."

Zimbabwe's elections last month pitted incumbent Robert Mugabe, 84, against rivals Morgan Tsvangirai and Simba Makoni.

Tsvangirai's party says he won outright, with over 50% of the vote. But the Zimbabwe government has only officially declared results for the parliamentary elections, conceding that Mugabe's party lost its majority.

Mugabe, who came to power in 1980, has led the country into collapse. Inflation is at more than 100,000% a year. And according to the U.N. World Food Program, a third of the country's 12 million people face starvation unless they receive aid.

A priest last May told Aid to the Church in Need about the dire situation: "Five months ago, I paid 11,000 Zimbabwe dollars for a chicken; a month ago they cost 50,000 and now they cost more than 100,000. People are dying of malnutrition." According to today's currency conversion rates, 100,000 Zimbabwe dollars is equivalent to U.S. $3.41.

Tampered with

Caritas is doing what it can to help with the starving, scaling up its operations to provide food for over 100,000 people until April 2008. The organization is helping 16,500 families with agricultural and irrigation support in planting for the next harvest.

But as the government continues its suspect silence, desperation grows.

"The voice of the people of Zimbabwe must be upheld and must not be tampered with by partisan interests," Knight said. "The delay is a recipe for political tension and instability."

Zambia today called for an emergency meeting of southern African leaders to discuss the stalled situation.

Alouis Munyaradzi Chaumba of the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace in Zimbabwe said, "The autonomy and professionalism of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission have been seriously eroded and deeply compromised, reinforcing accusations of embedded partisanship and bias.

"In the event of a re-run of the presidential election, Zimbabweans and the international community will have grave doubts about the fairness and impartiality of ZEC to conduct the poll."

Church leaders in Zimbabwe have blamed the government led by Mugabe for overseeing the economic and social collapse, for violating the freedom and fundamental rights of the people, and for failing to tackle rampant corruption.

Still, Knight called for peace amid the crisis: "All sides in Zimbabwe must remain committed to dialogue and a peaceful outcome to the political crisis. All sides must condemn acts of violence or intimidation and ensure their supporters remain committed to the democratic process."