U.S. Catholic Bishops Visit Zimbabwe and South Africa
September 8th, 2009
A delegation of American Catholic bishops has recently visited the church in Zimbabwe and South Africa. Bishop John H. Ricard of Pensacola, Florida, and Bishop John C. Wester of Salt Lake City, Utah visited Zimbabwe from August 26 to 28. They then traveled to South Africa where they stayed until September 6th, and where they were joined by Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, retired Archbishop of Washington D.C. The purpose of the delegation was to observe first-hand the important humanitarian aid work done by the Church, especially in fighting HIV/AIDS and poverty. The bishops are members of the USCCB Subcommittee on Africa. They visited church officials and projects funded by the Pastoral Solidarity Fund for the Church in Africa which raises money in the US to help the Church in Africa.
The bishops’ visit coincided with the new report by Human Right Watch: False Dawn: Zimbabwe Power Sharing Government’s failure to Deliver Human Rights Improvement, which was released on August 31. The report charges that the transitional government in Zimbabwe has failed to make progress in instituting human rights reforms in the six months since it was created. Human Rights Watch is requesting the regional body, Southern African Development Community (SADC), scheduled to hold a summit in Kinshasa on September 7 and 8, to discuss the Zimbabwe crisis and press the Zimbabwe power-sharing government to put an end to the human rights violations.
Six months after President Robert Mugabe and rival Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai forged an agreement they have failed to respect the principles and reforms on which both parties initially agreed. This failure by both parties has meant that the people of Zimbabwe, especially women and children, have remained without adequate food and medicines. Hyper-inflation has wracked the country’s economy. In March 2009, the U.S. renewed sanctions against President Mugabe and his top government officials for another year despite appeals from Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai to western donors to lift the sanctions. The sanctions included in the Democracy and Economic Recovery Act 2001 (ZIDERA) enable the United States to impose financial restrictions on President Mugabe and his top lieutenants as well as on businesses owned by people dealing with his administration. The U.S. sanctions will remain in effect as long Zimbabwe’s poor human rights record, political intolerance and denial of the rule of law continue.