In a statement released Jan. 17, the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa states its disapproval of the violent seizure of land, the rampant unemployment of thousands and the disregard for democratic and human rights in Zimbabwe. The church pledges to work together with all that are committed to the peaceful rebuilding of the country's agricultural sector and the implementation of sound policies to promote economic stability.
In a challenge to the government, the UCCSA also calls for the restoration of the right of free press, which has been curtailed under recently passed legislation, and calls for an end to the harassment of local and international journalists. The church also calls for independent civil and ecumenical monitoring of the whole election process, with no hindrance on the access to information. In the statement, the church "condemns in the strongest possible terms the reported statement by leaders of the military, which implies that they will not recognize or support any person chosen as the next president by the electorate, who is deemed by them not to be suitable for such high office."
"With people of goodwill everywhere," the statement goes on to say, "the UCCSA joins in calling on all Zimbabwean individuals, state structures and officials to commit themselves to free, open, peaceful and democratic elections and, if the people so desire, to an orderly transfer of political authority."
The United Congregational Church of Southern Africa has a history of mission and church service to the people of Zimbabwe. In the mid-1980s, before land became the politically violent issue that it is today, the UCCSA voluntarily handed glebe lands, granted in earlier times to the London Missionary Society, back to local people for their own use and benefit. During the time of the former Rhodesian regime, members of the church—clergy, lay and missionary—experienced harassment, opposition and, in some cases, death.