Adapted by Robert Lalonde, ACN Canada
Montreal, August 22, 2013 – The presidential and parliamentary elections in Zimbabwe on 31 July 2013 were marred by grave irregularities. This was recently affirmed by Father Oskar Wermter in an interview with the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).
Father Oskar, a Jesuit who works as the theological and pastoral representative for the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC), stated clearly: “It is a matter of a grave electoral fraud. We ourselves saw how many of the electorate were turned away, how chaotically the voters’ lists were drawn up. An election date in September or October would have been appropriate, but Mugabe wanted the election to be held quickly.”
Father Wermter went on to explain: “Altogether, 2,700 Catholics were involved as electoral observers, including bishops and priests, in order to emphasise the importance of free and non-violent elections.” He expressed concern at the result and the consequences of the presidential and parliamentary elections: “President Mugabe’s party now has a two thirds majority, which means that they can change the constitution that was only just approved in March by a referendum.”
According to Father Wermter, the result of the elections will further exacerbate the extremely difficult economic situation of the country. “Zimbabwe is economically isolated. Trade is suffering as a result; there is a lack of investment, because the government will give no guarantee of legal security to companies potentially willing to invest. Yet the country needs investment if it is to combat the catastrophically high unemployment, above all among young people.”
In the view of this Jesuit priest, the absence of future prospects and the growing poverty mean that yet more Zimbabweans will emigrate. Millions already live outside the country, he points out. “People are depending on money sent by their relatives from abroad. Or else they try their hand at trading with goods from neighbouring countries. These are not a sign of healthy economic circumstances, but simply survival strategies. The government is no longer trusted, since economic concerns are always sacrificed to political ones”, Father Oskar explains.
According to him, the Catholic Church, which has been almost uninterruptedly present and active in Zimbabwe for five decades, is “in many respects the only help and support of the people, above all in regard to education, the hospitals and a certain level of social support. ”