Zimbabwe bishops warn of revolt
April 13, 2007
Zimbabwe bishops warn of revolt


Zimbabwe’s Roman Catholic bishops have warned of a mass uprising unless free elections are held, in a letter pinned up in churches across the country.

“Many people in Zimbabwe are angry, and their anger is now erupting into open revolt,” the letter said.{{more}}

Individual bishops have previously criticised President Robert Mugabe, a Catholic, but this is the strongest joint attack on his government.

A minister told the BBC that the letter showed Zimbabwe was a “free country”.

“The churches are free to say what they like,” said Information Minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu.

“We have got a process for changing governments and electing leaders. We are preparing for elections.”

Zimbabwe’s nine Catholic bishops also called for a national day of prayer on Saturday 14 April.

Last month, a prayer meeting attended by opposition leaders and activists was broken up by police, leaving two people dead.

Scores of activists, including Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai, were arrested and assaulted in police custody.

Mr Mugabe said they had “deserved” their beatings for ignoring police warnings that the meeting was illegal.

The AP news agency reports that large crowds of people gathered to read the letter, called “God Hears the Cries of the Oppressed”, on Easter Sunday at the Catholic cathedral in Harare, which is sometimes attended by President Mugabe.

In his Easter address, Pope Benedict XVI also mentioned Zimbabwe’s “grievous crisis”.

The letter compares the suffering in Zimbabwe to the biblical oppression of the Jewish slaves under the pharaohs in Egypt.

“In order to avoid further bloodshed and avert a mass uprising, the nation needs a new people-driven constitution that will guide a democratic leadership chosen in free and fair elections,” it said.

Last month the outspoken Catholic Archbishop of Bulawayo, Pius Ncube, called for Zimbabweans to take to the streets in order to tell Mr Mugabe to step down.

He said he was willing to stand in front of “blazing guns” if necessary.

More Zimbabweans are Catholics than belong to any other religious group.

Zimbabwe has the world’s highest annual rate of inflation – 1,700% – and only one person in five is in full-time work.

Mr Mugabe blames his problems on a Western plot to remove him from power. (BBC)