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  • Strikes and Protests 2007- Save Zimbabwe Campaign

  • Police 'allow' prayer meeting but ban political speakers
    Violet Gonda, SW Radio Africa
    April 12, 2007

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    Zimbabwe 's church leaders have said they will go ahead with a prayer meeting in Bulawayo 's Makokoba Township on Saturday. The state Herald newspaper quotes police spokesperson Wayne Bvudzijena saying investigations had revealed that the Save Zimbabwe Campaign was a political gathering and not a prayer meeting. Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara where scheduled to speak at the gathering. Police have said the prayer meeting can only go ahead if they do not include the politicians in the program. Pastor Ray Motsi, spokesperson of the Christian Alliance said they agreed to this after being called into a meeting with security forces.

    The Herald newspaper had also accused Christopher Dell, the United States ambassador to Zimbabwe , of organising the prayer gathering to intensify pressure on the Mugabe regime. The Catholic Archbishop of Bulawayo , Pius Ncube, said this is an 'offside' comment. He said the Mugabe regime becomes paranoid about the international community to the extent that they see anyone who doesn't agree with them being used by the Americans or by the British. "The thing is that Zimbabweans can think on their own. We have brains, surely? The trouble is they claim that other people are being used by the Americans. It is they who are being used by the devil unfortunately, as they don't even care about the suffering of the people."

    On Thursday two Christian Alliance leaders were questioned by police in connection with the prayer meeting and the priest in charge of St Patrick's Catholic Church, the venue of the meeting, was told to call off the meeting. In a clear sign which shows that the police are working under the instructions of the government, Mugabe's spokesperson George Charamba is reported as saying: "This is a double dressing. At one level the Archbishop is projecting this political gathering as a convocation under the Catholic Church, the whole effort is to dress the MDC with a collar."

    But the outspoken Bulawayo cleric said Mugabe is 'so full of himself' and has refused to listen to anyone including religious leaders in Zimbabwe who have appealed for dialogue and peace. "Who does he listen to?" He listens only to the devil and at least we, who listen to God, have a right to pray."

    The Catholic Bishops' Conference recently issued a strongly worded pastoral letter on the crisis in Zimbabwe . It's reported that copies of the letter, which were posted on bulletin boards in Catholic churches across the country, were widely received and applauded by parishioners. Archbishop Ncube said: "The people have been extremely pleased that we are standing with them finally, not just standing with the oppressors."

    The Pastoral letter said the crisis in the country was as a crisis of governance and a crisis of leadership. Archbishop Ncube said they realised they needed to 'name' this situation as opposed to the National Vision Document, which is merely a discussion document. The Zimbabwe We Want: Towards a National Vision was a document that was launched by the three main Christian groups in Zimbabwe late last year; the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops' Conference and the Zimbabwe Council of Churches

    But Archbishop Ncube said the discussion document is meant to keep people occupied with talking while the regime feathers its nest. He asked: "But with whom do we discuss? We discuss with those who are oppressed. We know exactly what they are saying. We can't discuss with a government which is so dog-headed, which is so pig-headed and so stubborn. We can't."

    The Bishop said this is the reason that South African President Thabo Mbeki will not succeed with peace talks in Zimbabwe . Mbeki has tried for several years to bring Robert Mugabe to the negotiating table to no avail. The cleric said: "As long as it is a mere sweet-talk and there is no kind of pressure on him to say - come and talk or else - that won't succeed. We know the character of this man. This man has been with us for 27 years. We know what type of man we are dealing with here."

    Critics have also lambasted regional leaders, especially Mbeki, for not publicly censuring Mugabe on the human rights abuses in Zimbabwe where hundreds of opposition supporters have been and continue to be brutalized. Mbeki and others say they criticised the Zimbabwean leaders in private but observers say since this is failing to stop Mugabe, they should now criticise him in public. Archbishop Pius Ncube believes its very difficult for some of these African leaders to face Mugabe as many of them have corrupt governments themselves, making it very difficult to criticise their neighbour.

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