By Paschal Norbert
PRETORIA, OCTOBER 19, 2021 (CISA) – The Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) has released a statement detailing their findings during their solidarity and pastoral visit to the Kingdom of eSwatini, from October 6 to 12, 2021.
In a statement signed by Bishop Sithembele Sipuka, the President of SACBC, on October 14, the bishops acknowledged the past and present challenges of Africa’s only absolute monarchy.
“eSwatini has had its fair share of challenges, including being one of the countries worst affected by the HIV pandemic. The suffering caused by HIV has been compounded by other social, political, and economic challenges and lately by Covid 19, forcing many into abject poverty… The recent upsurges of unprecedented violence, that swept the country in the middle of this year and resulted in loss of life and limb as well as the large-scale destruction of property, seem to suggest a loss of patience that must be regained if this beautiful country is not to descend into civil war and the concomitant suffering that has befallen other countries,” said the Bishops.
The Catholic Bishops echoed the continued pro-democracy protests in the country that are directed at the country’s monarchy, which the King rules effectively by decree.
“While in the past, eSwatini enjoyed a common appreciation of the form of government, these days, from what we have heard, there appears to be a call from some avenues for consideration of a different form of government. The reasons for this call are too numerous to narrate here. While perhaps this call is not new, given the unprecedented violence and the apparent determination to stick to this call, we humbly propose that attention to this call be given. We are concerned that a failure to heed this call may lead to escalation of violence that will see more loss of life and destruction of economy and infrastructure happening,” opined the Bishops.
The bishops encouraged constructive dialogue and negotiations while also noting that consideration for other structures of dialoguing is salient as opposed to the eSwatini traditional structure of the dialogue.
“We are, however, concerned that there are different opinions about the format of dialogue and negotiations, and given these differences, it appears that such dialogue may not take place, or at least may not be as effective as hoped for if the format is not mutually agreed to,” the Catholic Bishops postulated.
“Furthermore, we would like to record a strong sentiment of alienation that some of the people we spoke to felt from their King and a desire for the restoration of a felt symbiotic and caring relationship between the King and His people,” they added.
The SACBC solidarity and pastoral visit, led by Bishop Sithembele Sipuka to the Catholic Diocese of Manzini, the only diocese in the Kingdom of Eswatini, was to allow the SACBC to become more familiar with the present situation in the country through planned meetings with different stakeholders.