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denounced by Catholic bishops
April 02, 2007
Roman Catholic bishops have abandoned a long-standing reticence
to criticise Robert Mugabe, damning his government as "racist,
corrupt and lawless" and likening the struggle against it to
the country's liberation war against white rule.
letter, read out in churches on Sunday, denounces "overtly
corrupt" leaders for using "ever harsher oppression through
arrests, detentions, banning orders, beatings and torture",
days after Mugabe said that his opponents deserved to be "bashed".
bishops' conference letter warns that Zimbabwe is heading towards
a "flashpoint" but appeals for "peace and restraint"
in protests ahead of a two-day general strike called from Tuesday.
The letter said young Zimbabweans "see their leaders habitually
engaging in acts and words which are hateful, disrespectful, racist,
corrupt, lawless, unjust, greedy, dishonest and violent in order
to cling to the privileges of power and wealth".
say the seizure and redistribution of white-owned farms over recent
years, the centrepiece of what Mugabe portrays as his campaign to
liberate Zimbabwe from the vestiges of colonialism, has enriched
the elite but done little to help the poor. They conclude that the
white settlers who once exploited what was Rhodesia have been supplanted
by a black elite that is just as abusive.
the same conflict between those who possess power and wealth in
abundance, and those who do not; between those who are determined
to maintain their privileges of power and wealth at any cost, even
at the cost of bloodshed, and those who demand their democratic
rights and a share in the fruits of independence; between those
who continue to benefit from the present system of inequality and
injustice, because it favours them and enables them to maintain
an exceptionally high standard of living, and those who go to bed
hungry at night and wake up in the morning to another day without
work and without income; between those who only know the language
of violence and intimidation, and those who feel they have nothing
more to lose because their constitutional rights have been abrogated
and their votes rigged," the letter says.
back calls for a new constitution "that will guide a democratic
leadership chosen in free and fair elections".
Archbishop of Bulawayo, Pius Ncube, has been outspoken in his criticism
of Mugabe, Zimbabwe's Catholic bishops have largely remained silent
until now. Some supported Mugabe, others believed that the church
should not involve itself in politics. But they have been under
growing pressure from their congregations to speak out.
squads have abducted and beaten hundreds of opposition activists
over recent days. The police have also apparently been involved
in assaults. Nine members of the Movement for Democratic Change
(MDC) arrived at a Harare court on Saturday with severe injuries
after four days in police custody. Two were taken to hospital on
life support on the orders of a magistrate, over police objections,
but were later returned to prison. Officials accuse the activists
of petrol bombings of police stations, a supermarket and a train
in a "terror campaign" that the opposition says is perpetrated
by government forces to provide a justification for arresting Mugabe's
not only justified the assaults on his opponents -- including the
severe beating of the MDC leader, Morgan Tsvangirai -- he also warned
there would be more violence. "Of course he [Tsvangirai] was
bashed. He deserved it. ... I told the police: 'beat him a lot.'
He and his MDC must stop their terrorist activities," he said.
- Guardian Unlimited
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