South African churches condemn Zimbabwe repression

By Mike Crockett
March 16, 2007

The General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches, Mr Eddie Makue, has expressed grave concern over the growing wave of repression and human rights violations in Zimbabwe and called for immediate action to halt the persecution of Zimbabweans at home and abroad.

The South African Council of Churches (SACC) was a prime galvanising force in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa in the 1970s, 80s and 90s.

The statement was released as a response to church leaders having now become targets of police harassment in Zimbabwe. Over the past week a number of church leaders, civil society activists, human rights campaigners and opposition leaders have been detained and beaten by police for participating in public prayer meetings.

It also coincides with a growing wave of international concern, and Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's continuing attempts to characterise this as a Western-only condemnation - "they can go hang" he has been quoted as responding.

Meanwhile main opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai is being treated for suspected fractures after his detention and beating. Margaret Beckett, the British foreign secretary, says the UK is pushing for the human rights council at the United Nations to take an urgent look at Zimbabwe.

The South African Council of Churches' Makue sees the recent repression as an attempt to create and exploit divisions within the Zimbabwean Church, saying, “Authoritarian regimes commonly make use of such 'divide and rule' tactics to discredit and stifle genuine opposition."

The other concern Makue addresses is that avenues of peaceful protest are being shut down, "criminalizing criminalizing the legitimate grievances of concerned Zimbabweans."

Apart from the mass emigration of Zimbabweans to neighbouring countries, which has led to the threat of internal revolution is likely to increase as already draconian measures toughen.

Makue specifically pointed to the silence of the South African government as a further aggravating factor. President Mbeki of South African has been challenged over many years for his policy, described as ‘silent diplomacy’, by critic’s in Zimbabwe and South Africa.

Finally, the SACC has called on all its membership churches to speak out against the atrocities in Zimbabwe and to become places of hospitality for those refugees who now find themselves victims of xenophobia in the neighbouring countries

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