The Justice and Peace Commission of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) has called on all political parties to avoid making statements that could incite

Bishop Abel Gabuza‚ the chairperson of the SACBC Justice and Peace Commission‚ issued the call on Monday in response to the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema‚ who said during a televised interview that if the ANC continues to respond violently to peaceful protests‚ “We will run out of patience very soon and we will remove this government through the barrel of a gun”.

“We are deeply saddened to hear of war rhetoric by the leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters‚” says Bishop Gabuza‚ the chairperson of the SACBC Justice and Peace Commission.

“We have seen the evil consequences of civil war in other African countries‚ including massive loss of lives‚ a refugee crisis and irreparable damage to the economy. We do not want our nation to take such a path. We therefore appeal to all political parties to refrain from actions and rhetoric that could fuel election violence and civil war.”

Bishop Gabuza said that the Church is also concerned about the rising incidence of violent protests as the country approaches the local government elections.

“Both the increasing incidents of violent protests and the use of excessive force by the police to curb the violent protests are a cause of deep concern. Both should stop.”

The commission believed that the use of excessive force as a deterrent will not in itself solve the complex problem of violent protests‚ he said in a statement.

“If the government wants to stop violent protests‚ it should be serious in its efforts to tackle the root causes‚ including the rising economic inequalities‚ youth unemployment‚ a culture of patronage and the fierce scramble for political positions – especially when such positions are considered as an opportunity for self-enrichment.”

The African National Congress on Monday denounced Malema’s remarks and called for an inquiry.

“These remarks are a call to violence‚ are inflammatory‚ treasonable and seditious‚” ANC spokesman Zizi Kodwa said. “These reckless utterances display a shocking lack of judgement on the part of the EFF…The remarks made by Mr Malema are a clear incitement to people to commit acts of violence…‚” Kodwa said.

“The ANC calls on state authorities to urgently investigate this matter and act against such conduct‚” Kodwa said.

The SACBC Justice and Peace commission asked all political parties to adhere to the Charter of Election ethics that they signed on 13 April.