The Catholic bishops of South Africa have criticized the government for excessive weapons spending given the country’s major social problems. 

“We insist that, in the absence of discernible external military threat to our country, and in a country which is struggling to recover from high levels of unemployment and extreme poverty, it is ethically irresponsible and unnecessary to spend billions of scarce resources on weapons of war,” said Bishop Abel Gabuza. 

Bishop Gabuza chairs the Justice and Peace Commission for the South Africa Catholic Bishops’ Conference. In an April 26 statement, he said the arms spending ignored the real problem.

“(T)he greatest threat to our national security are economic inequalities and youth unemployment which are themselves fueling violent social protests,” he said.

Bishop Gabuza said forms of protests are becoming increasingly violent.

“The defense capabilities that the military acquired through the arms procurement in 1999 are irrelevant in the face of this security threat,” he said.

The bishop was critical of a government finding that justified the arms spending in the face of corruption claims.

He said the government spent billions of South African rands — worth tens of millions of U.S. dollars — on weapons in 1999 at a time when the government said it could not afford retroviral treatments for South Africans with HIV.

“We therefore continue to insist that the arms deal was an ethical blunder,” he said.

The bishops’ conference commission also called on the government to suspend its plans for nuclear energy procurement.

Photo credit: via