BY DAVID V BARRETT
SOUTH AFRICA’S most senior Catholic bishop said this week that he could not understand why the South African government was not considering sanctions against neighbouring Zimbabwe, given the success that sanctions brought for South Africa.
However, the Catholic Church believed that if sanctions were imposed on Zimbabwe, they should be applied “intelligently” and it should be up to the people of Zimbabwe to decide when they should be lifted, said Cardinal Wilfred Napier, president of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference.
While he was not calling directly for sanctions against Zimbabwe, Cardinal Napier said, he did not understand why sanctions were not being considered. During apartheid no progress was made with the second-last white President, P W Botha, so most churches supported the African National Congress’ call for sanctions through the United Democratic Front.
“Sanctions in South Africa brought us a quicker end to the oppression. But I think you have got to do it intelligently,” said Cardinal Napier.
He said Zimbabwe’s Archbishop Pius Ncube told a gathering of church leaders in KwaZulu-Natal last week that nobody was pressuring the Zimbabwe government to find a solution to its problems. “All they do is back each other up and drink tea together,” Archbishop Ncube is reported to have said.
“It’s difficult on the outside of the situation to comment, but for my part our government has the means to find out what needs to be done,” Cardinal Napier said.
Commenting on whether the Church should get involved in politics, the Cardinal said: “When people are dying it is not politics, it is a matter of life and death and about the promise of a better life and making that fulfillable. Life and death is not about politics.” He said it was usually people who had a lot to lose who opposed sanctions, and disputed that it would have a negative impact on ordinary Zimbabweans.