Zimbabwe bishops see hope in fall elections

A Zimbabwean election official in Harare counts ballot papers after the close of voting on a constitutional referendum March 16.

CNS PHOTO | PHILIMON BULAWAYO, REUTERS

A Zimbabwean election official in Harare counts ballot papers after the close of voting on a constitutional referendum March 16.

April 1, 2013

General elections in Zimbabwe, expected in the second half of the year, will be as important in determining the country’s destiny as the 1980 vote that led to independence from Great Britain, said the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference.

Zimbabwe “needs to close the door to political intolerance, violence, impunity, lack of transparency and accountability, intimidation, corruption and open another (door) to a true democratic dispensation,” Zimbabwe’s eight bishops said in a mid-March pastoral letter.

In a referendum March 16, Zimbabweans approved a constitution that was backed by President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, political rivals who were forced into a power-sharing deal after disputed elections in 2008.

The constitution sets a maximum of two five-year terms for the president, but the limit will not apply retroactively.

Mugabe, 89, has been in power since 1980 and has said he will run again for office.