Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Uncertain Leadership Strains Nerves in Zimbabwe

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Uncertain Leadership Strains Nerves in Zimbabwe

Article excerpt

Church groups have joined the chorus calling for the release of results from Zimbabwe's March 29 presidential election, and for the incumbent Robert Mugabe to accept the results "graciously."

The elections were expected to usher in a new beginning for millions here who for the past decade have known nothing but economic decline and human rights abuses.

But nearly two weeks after official polling closed, that dream for a bright future remained distant. With official results of the presidential election still unknown, Robert Mugabe--in power since 1980--declared he would fight on in a presidential runoff that would pit him against longtime opponent Morgan Tsvangirai.

His declaration spurred wide speculation that Mugabe knew he had been defeated but was refusing to accept the results. The government-appointed Zimbabwe Election Commission is delaying the release of the official tally.

Uncertainty about the election continued to grow, with the police making daily appeals for the public to remain calm amid fears that the delay could trigger violence. Many here strongly believe Tsvangirai won the poll.

Catholic parishes began Sunday Masses April 6 with prayers for "renewed national leadership." Mugabe is a practicing Catholic.

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"People have heard enough. I'm so stressed today I don't think I will be able to deliver the homily," a priest told his congregation the weekend following the election. "Everybody knows who won. The people's will must be respected," the priest said.

The internationally respected Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, which has long been at odds with Mugabe for its human rights reporting, said that "delaying the presidential results is an attempt to subvert electoral processes and the people's will."

In an April 7 statement, the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace criticized the delay. …

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