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Zim cleric says MDC a stumbling block to change
December 18, 2006

JOHANNESBURG - Outspoken Zimbabwe Catholic Archbishop Pius Ncube on Thursday said the country's main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party lacked visionary leadership and had become a stumbling block to efforts to achieve democratic change in the country.

Ncube, a critic of President Robert Mugabe, said while the veteran President should be held accountable for the country's political and economic crisis, the two leaders of the splintered MDC were also to blame for their failure to provide resolute and visionary leadership to multitudes of Zimbabweans itching for change.

The MDC, which came closest to unseating Mugabe in elections 2000 and 2002, has since lost much of its potency after splitting last year into two rival camps the larger one led by the opposition party's founding leader, Morgan Tsvangirai and another one led by prominent academic Arthur Mutambara.

"I do not have respect either for Tsvangirai or Mutambara. I blame both factions, they lack leadership vision therefore we must try and identify another leader," said Ncube at the launch in Johannesburg of an audio and visual report on increasing police brutality against perceived political opponents of the government.

The report entitled: Policing the state - an evaluation of 1 981 political arrests in Zimbabwe between 2000 and 2005, that was prepared by the Solidarity Peace Trust which Ncube co-chairs, says Mugabe's government had reverted to the same brutal and repressive policing methods used by colonial authorities to retain control over a restive populace.

A Ukraine-style mass revolt by Zimbabweans to push Mugabe to embrace democracy and human rights was possible but only on condition there was a drastic shake-up and reconfiguration of the opposition ranks, according to the report.

Zimbabwe is grappling with its worst ever economic crisis, critics blame on mismanagement by Mugabe.

The crisis, described by the World Bank as the worst in the world outside a war zone, has seen the country battling shortages of food, fuel, electricity, essential medicines, hard cash and basically every basic commodity, while inflation is more than 1 000 percent.

But Mugabe has relied on the army to keep public discontent in check while his ruling ZANU PF party meets tomorrow at Goromonzi, less than 100 km east of Harare, to endorse extending the 82-year old leader's tenure by another two years.

Mugabe's term was to end in 2008 but ZANU PF plans to use its overwhelming majority in Parliament to amend the Constitution to enable him to rule until 2010.

Prominent Zimbabwean academic Brian Raftopoulos also speaking at the launch of the Solidarity report on police brutality said while Zimbabweans have been accused of being too docile, they had in fact tried to stand up to Mugabe's government.

The state had however been ruthless in its response, closing off democratic space, arresting opponents and re-moulding itself into a semi-militarised structure.

Raftopoulos said: "There is increasing closure of political space in Zimbabwe. The state has since been restructured. The regime is relying on policing all ministries. Arrests are being used to pre-empt any voices of dissent. This has weakened both the civic and opposition." - ZimOnline

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