Cablegate: Zimbabwean Clergy More Outspoken Against Political

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.





E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Bulawayo recently
lambasted the Mugabe regime, even calling it fascist, and the
Methodist Bishop of Harare recently urged the High Court to
be courageous and resist corruption. Precious few church
leaders have been as outspoken, and clergy and commentators
have only recently tapped into the socially perceived need
for leadership and criticized church higher-ups for their
silence. A local USAID-supported NGO sponsored a recent
conference of church and civic leaders to inspire church
leaders to take a stand. Growing calls from ordinary clergy
and parishioners for an end to political violence are a
welcome development and likely will pressure church leaders
to play a more active role in the search for a resolution of
Zimbabwe's political crisis. End Summary.

Growing Pressure from Clergy
2. (U) The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Bulawayo, Pius Ncube,
has long been an outspoken critic on the GOZ's use of
violence and human rights abuses. In the opening remarks of
his November 6 address to church leaders in Durban,
Archbishop Ncube, accused the GOZ of being fascist. He went
on to detail a litany of violence and injustice perpetrated
on the people of Zimbabwe by the Mugabe regime in the past 3
years. By his own count, 160 people had already died of
starvation in Matabeleland. He appealed to the audience to
lobby, wherever possible, the Mugabe regime to change.

3. (U) In November 2002, clergy from the Anglican,
Evangelical Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist, and
Church of Christ in Matabeleland issued a statement in full
support of Archbishop Ncube in which they "condemn(ed) in the
strongest terms the actions of Mugabe and his government in
hijacking food supplies and distributing them in a partisan
way" and said they "hear(d) the cries of suffering, the
harassed and starving people of our country for help".

4. (U) In December 2002 churches in Manicaland issued a
statement in support of Archbishop Ncube and the Matabeleand
clergy, complaining of an "ongoing government-controlled
campaign of intimidation, fear and violence". Further
criticizing the GOZ they said, "the situation we now face is
extremely serious as famine stalks our land... the President
and government are responsible for this situation... In the
face of evil, the rhetoric of self-justification continues to
resound from the corridors of power." The clergy accused the
GOZ of denying reality and resorting to lies.

5. (U) On January 13 at the opening of the High Court in
Harare Bishop Cephas Mukandi, the head of the Methodist
Church in Zimbabwe implored High Court judges to shun
selective justice and resist being corrupted--both of which
erode confidence in the judicial system. He went on to say
that cowards could not rebuild Zimbabwe; the task requires
persons of courage with a genuine love and concern for the
welfare of others. He said administrators of justice should
let their service to Zimbabweans be based on the knowledge
that everyone is created in the image of God and should be
treated fairly--implying that some defendants had not been.

GOZ Denounces Ncube
6. (SBU) The GOZ has repeatedly urged churches to keep out of
politics, unless it was supportive of the GOZ. Information
Minister Jonathan Moyo denounced Ncube as a "mad bishop", and
called for his resignation. According to the former Director
of the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) in
Zimbabwe, Michael Auret, the GOZ approached the Vatican to
request Ncube's retirement, and Ncube himself reported to the
Ambassador he had received death threats. But according to
University of Zimbabwe political scientist John Makumbe,
Ncube represents an invincible constituency, the church, and
the Vatican has backed Ncube.

GOZ Apologists at the Pulpit
7. (SBU) Precious few church leaders have taken a stand, and
at least one is an outspoken GOZ apologist. The Anglican
Bishop of Harare, Nolbert Kunonga, commented in January 2002
that President Mugabe was more Christian than himself. In
October 2002 Kunonga was denied a court order to ban 19 of
his own church wardens from the Anglican cathedral in
downtown Harare for disrupting his pro-government sermons
with impromptu hymn-singing. Kunonga was elected bishop in
2001 after allegedly using ruling party influence to secure
his nomination; he was subsequently accused of firing priests
who opposed his nomination. The Catholic Archbishop of
Harare, Patrick Chakaipa, a long-time friend of Mugabe, tried
unsuccessfully in 1997 to suppress a CCJP report on
atrocities committed by the GOZ in Matabeleland in the 1980s.
The Catholic Bishop of Mutare, Alexio Muchabaiwa, refused to
denounce the expulsion by war veterans and the CIO last year
of a Catholic Priest from his diocese, Father Patrick Kelly.
Johane Masowe, who leads his own apostolic sect, has stated
publicly his support for the ruling party. Several other
apostolic church leaders have taken pro-GOZ positions and
received GOZ favors in turn.

8. (U) In a December 2002 statement entitled "That There May
be Peace and Prosperity," the Zimbabwe Council of Churches
(ZCC), the umbrella organization of mainline Protestant
churches, called upon newly-resettled farmers to "make the
best possible use of the land entrusted to them". Clergy and
commentators subsequently blasted the statement in the
independent press for appeasing the GOZ and sanctioning the
land invasions which have left hundreds of thousands of farm
workers destitute. Rev. Graham Shaw of Bulawayo said the
statement was carefully crafted, and politically correct, but
betrayed Zimbabwean victims of oppression, and ignored
monstrous injustices and the desperate urgency of half the
population facing starvation.

Consensus for Peace and Action
9. (SBU) On December 13 - 14 the Crisis in Zimbabwe
Coalition, a USAID grantee, sponsored a Peace Conference in
Bulawayo to develop a unified action plan for political
change in Zimbabwe for churches and civil society groups.
Four hundred seventeen people attended the conference
including eight bishops from the Catholic, Anglican, Brethren
in Christ and Evangelical churches, 70 pastors, and 50 civil
society organization delegates.

10. (U) According to Brian Kagoro, Crisis in Zimbabwe
coordinator, the major successes of the conference were
bringing together all of the major churches in the country
with civil society groups, developing a common position on
governance and rule of law, and agreeing to advocate publicly
for an immediate cessation of violence and intolerance in

11. (SBU) Kagoro said discussions focused on the modalities
of changing government in Zimbabwe, and on national healing
in the wake of state-sponsored violence and impunity. While
there was agreement that change was necessary, the
participants disagreed on whether to forgive perpetrators of
official violence, and in the context of the HIV pandemic
whether to approve of abstinence. Kagoro admitted the
conference was too short to address the 5 broad areas
covered: 1. governance and human rights, 2. regional
advocacy, 3. agrarian reform and food security, 4. truth,
justice and reconciliation, and 5. the HIV pandemic.

12. (U) The Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition circulated a draft
National Peace Accord to be signed by participating church
and civic groups in the coming days setting out a code of
conduct for government, and a process to mitigate violence.

Repeated Calls for Leadership
13. (U) Commentators in the independent media have lamented
the relative silence of most church higher-ups against the
brutality of the Mugabe regime. Noting the example set by
Archbishop Desmond Tutu in South Africa, on January 15 Daily
News Columnist Tanonoka Whande wrote, "the silence of our
churches is as painful and intolerable as it is baffling...
Some of us are hurting. We are hurting for a few words of
spiritual encouragement... Church leaders, please stand up.
Your flock is scattering. You are not only deacons, but
beacons." On January 16, in the same paper Saul Gwakuba
applauded Archbishop Pius Ncube and Bishop Cephas Mukandi,
but he complained that other church leaders have been notably
silent. Recalling that biblical prophets stood for what was
right, rather than what was convenient, he implored
Zimbabwean church leaders to choose between justice and
tyranny, evil and righteousness.

14. (SBU) The GOZ has managed to silence most churches by
securing support of at least some, usually Harare-based
bishops in most churches, thereby inhibiting any united
critical church position. Nor has the GOZ and Mugabe
personally hesitated to blast away at any church critics who
stuck their heads up. The recent outspoken statements by
Ncube and Mukandi in particular are a departure from the
silence of church leaders during the crisis in Zimbabwe over
the past year. Noting peoples' need for leadership against
violence and injustice, and increasing frustration and
confusion about apathy in their church hierarchies, clergy
and commentators have recently called on their church leaders
to take a stand. The USAID-supported Peace Conference of
church and civic leaders in Bulawayo aimed at opening a frank
dialogue between community and church leaders in hopes that
the latter would take a stronger role in advocating for
change. The resolution to become more outspoken in the
pulpit, coupled with the outspokenness of Ncube and Mukandi
are important indications of church leadership for change in
its infancy. Sparks of activism within what some have
described as an invincible constituency are encouraging, and
growing pressure from clergy around the country could prompt
senior church leaders to work more actively for an end to
political violence. End Comment.

© Scoop Media

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