South African aid to Zimbabwe gets 'no' vote from Cardinal Napier
Aug 06, 2005
South Africa would be "most reckless" to send aid to Zimbabwe, which is "in absolute chaos," said the president of the Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference.
CAPE TOWN, South Africa (CNS, Jul-27-2005) -- "Giving money to (Zimbabwe President Robert) Mugabe can be compared to giving money to an alcoholic beggar who tells you he has given up drink and will spend the money on food," Cardinal Wilfrid F. Napier of Durban said in a mid-July telephone interview from Durban.
The cardinal had returned from a two-day trip to Zimbabwe as part of a delegation with the ecumenical South African Council of Churches.
Mugabe is reportedly seeking a loan from South Africa to pay for electricity, fuel and food to offset chronic shortages.
South Africa is in talks with the Zimbabwean government and may end up aiding its neighbor financially, South African President Thabo Mbeki told reporters July 24.
Cardinal Napier said Zimbabweans would be better served through donations to churches and humanitarian aid agencies because Mugabe probably would squander the funding.
"Mugabe has never respected conditions attached to money lent to his government before, so there is no reason to think that he would do so this time," the cardinal said.
An ongoing campaign of government-ordered shantytown demolitions has left hundreds of thousands homeless. The campaign, Operation Drive Out Trash, has been condemned by the United Nations, numerous countries and church leaders.
"Mugabe wants to destroy all semblance of opposition and aims to achieve this by bringing people to their knees with himself as the only person who can help them," the cardinal said.
Zimbabwe's government said the demolitions were carried out to eliminate illegal settlements that had contributed to a rise in crime in Zimbabwe's deteriorating cities. The demolitions, which began in May, have left 700,000 Zimbabweans without homes or jobs, according to a mid-July U.N. report.
The South African Council of Churches said in its report that the "deliberate destruction of the informal economy, which is meant to cater to economically vulnerable groups, is unparalleled in modern-day Africa."
Near Harare, Zimbabwe's capital, the council delegation visited a refugee camp where some 5,000 people were living in "inhuman conditions."
"These people are removed from opportunities to earn a living and driven to the periphery of society," it said.
"A shocking sight greeted the delegation" when it entered Mbare township, 25 miles southeast of Harare, the report said. "Almost every yard was filled with rubble from the demolition of structures."
At a Catholic church in the township, the delegation saw long lines of people waiting to collect monthly food rations, the report said.
Cardinal Napier told Catholic News Service that Mbare "was so full of rubble it looked like it had been bombed."