Zimbabwe church official says elections don't fix starvation

The estimated 10% voter turnout in Zimbabwe's elections for a new Senate was not surprising as the country's food, fuel and foreign currency shortages worsen, said Alouis Chaumba, who heads Zimbabwe's Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace.

"We are tired of elections," he told Catholic News Service, noting that "they are definitely not adding value to our lives here."

The 26 November election for the 66-seat Senate, which will have the final word on new laws, "is seen as just another walkover for the ruling party," Chaumba said. "Of far more relevance to our lives is the fact that prices are going up every day and basic groceries are beyond the reach of most" of Zimbabwe's 12 million people, he said, noting that "there are people starving in the drier regions of the country."

With laws that guarantee seats to various ruling party loyalists and a boycott campaign by the main opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, President Robert Mugabe's governing ZANU-PF party was set to win before voting started.

The poll follows the March 2005 general election in which 81-year-old Mugabe, who has ruled the southern African country since independence from Britain in 1980, was re-elected.

"The government should be focusing on the crisis the country is in, not more elections," Chaumba said.

Mugabe's much criticised land redistribution program - which has disrupted agricultural production - and recurring droughts are widely blamed for the severe food shortages.

Most Zimbabweans are "living in destitution and desperation," the Harare-based Zimbabwe National Pastors' Conference said in a statement. "We are amazed at the patience of the people of Zimbabwe who have remained composed under the current economic conditions of impoverishment," it said.

The statement has the support of the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace, Chaumba said, adding that "we fully understand the plight of workers in Zimbabwe because most of them are members of our congregations."

The conference said it was "very concerned about the heavy-handed manner" in which the police and army in early November disrupted "what was evidently a peaceful procession" organized by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions to highlight an unemployment rate of about 80% and the rocketing cost of living.

Zimbabwean church official says elections don't help starving people (Catholic News Service 5/12/05)

South African cardinal "shocked" by Zimbabwe rubble (CathNews 5/9/05)
South African cardinal calls for sanctions against Zimbabwe (CathNews 15/7/04)

Zimbabwean church official says elections don't help starving people (ZWnews.com 6/12/05)
Archbishop predicts Zimbabwe famine (The Tablet 29/10/05)
Archbishop Ncube says 200,000 may die of hunger (Independent Catholic News 20/10/05)
Zimbabwe crisis: nothing left to do but pray (ZWNews.com 23/10/05)

7 Dec 2005