17 January 2003

Catholics censure their bishops for appeasing Mugabe

Catholics censure their bishops for appeasing Mugabe 17 January

Senior members of one of Zimbabwe’s biggest Catholic dioceses delivered a scathing attack against the church hierarchy yesterday for appeasing President Mugabe, and demanded that it confront his "evil regime". The move came as a judge stripped two MPs from the ruling Zanu PF party of their seats, ruling that their victories in 2000 had been won through "intimidation and violence". Six Zanu PF victories have been nullified out of 41 being challenged by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change. The 260 priests, deacons, sisters and brothers of the archdiocese of Bulawayo said: "There is no place for neutrality in the face of the evil which is destroying our nation. Time has run out for compromise with an evil regime. Attempts to use personal influence and persuasion have only allowed a corrupt system to consolidate its power." The Western Matabeleland provinces have probably suffered far more brutality at Mr Mugabe’s hands than any other part of the country. Dissent among the Ndebele-speaking people could provoke an even greater threat of schism in the country.

The clergy demanded that the Catholic Bishops’ Conference, the church’s executive body, "come out publicly with a clear and honest voice, on behalf of the voiceless, as their predecessors did during the liberation struggle (against the former white minority Rhodesian Government)". This is the first time that the general clergy of Zimbabwe’s most powerful church have spoken out against the silence of their bishops over the past three years of repression and lawlessness under Mr Mugabe. Observers say that Mr Mugabe has successfully courted the leadership of most churches in Zimbabwe and counts the heads of both the Catholic and Anglican churches as his personal allies. The exception has been Archbishop Pius Ncube of Bulawayo, who has constantly condemned Mr Mugabe and helped to focus international attention on Zanu PF’s strategy of denying food aid to starving opposition supporters. He is kept under permanent state surveillance and said to be on a secret police hitlist. "We condemn those who harass, who attack, who plan evil against the Archbishop," the clergy said. "We condemn those who attempt to silence his voice." (Times, UK ( ZWNews)


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