Mbabane: Members of the Southern African Catholics Bishops Conference (SACBC) are concerned about the unprecedented violence that has been seen in the country in recent times. The Bishops were commenting after a fact-finding mission to Eswatini in which they assessed the current political unrest.
The Bishops were represented by South African Bishop Sithembele Sipuka, who is the President of SACBC, and Bishop Luis Ponce de Leon who addressed the media during a press conference. They have spent seven days in the country during which time they engaged with various stakeholders including the Deputy Prime Minister, Themba Masuku who was representing Prime Minister Cleopas Dlamini.
According to Bishop Sipuka of Mthatha, “we are concerned about the ongoing unrest and our visit is to show our solidarity with what is going on in the kingdom. In the past Eswatini was known for its peace and its culture of courtesy, humanness, and hospitality. These days, however, there appears to be a call from some avenues for the consideration of a different form of government.”
“We are concerned that a failure to heed this call may lead to an escalation of violence that will see more loss of life and destruction of the economy and infrastructure happening. We are encouraged by the fact that all those whom we spoke to, government included, expressed openness about dialogue and negotiations.”
The Bishops also raised the fact that civil society members did not trust the Southern Africa Development Community’s (SADC) Organ Troika Technical Fact-Finding mission to Eswatini. This is because they did not get to see the report compiled by the SADC Troika Organ before it was handed over to the authorities.
The visit by the Southern African Catholics Bishops Conference follows a pastoral letter sent to the Laos of Eswatini by the Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, Thabo Makgoba. Makgoba said “The Gospels require that I do not point to a speck of dust in the eye of another and ignore the log in my own eye. (Matthew 7:3; Luke 6:41) Thus it is in full awareness of the problems in other countries in the region that I urge the people of eSwatini not to get caught up in cycles of conflict.”
Makgoba urged Emaswati not to resort to violence or the excessive use of state power. This is because violence begets violence, and injury and death generate anger which makes problems only more difficult to resolve. “As a bishop and a pastor, while I am bound not to compromise the truth, I am primarily called to a ministry of reconciliation. As I have always advocated in places where there is no peace, I urge you all to repudiate the use of force, to sit around a table, and to talk to one another with the aim of finding an amicable Swazi solution to the challenges that the Kingdom is facing.”
He urged the organs of SADC to come alongside the Swazi people when invited, in order to journey with them to find a lasting solution.