Archbishop urges peaceful uprising in Zimbabwe

 

A prominent Zimbabwean archbishop has called for a peaceful popular uprising to overthrow President Robert Mugabe after elections this week which the ruling party is widely expected to win.

Catholic Archbishop Pius Ncube told BBC radio today Mr Mugabe had intimidated opposition supporters and would rig Thursday's general election.

"People need to be educated into the process. Something like what Mahatma Gandhi did, educating his people to be aware of their dignity and to stand for their rights even if it meant suffering disadvantage," said the long-time Mugabe critic and archbishop of Zimbabwe's second city, Bulawayo.

"I am simply backing a non-violent popular uprising, like that in the Philippines in 1986 and such as in Ukraine," he was quoted in the Independent as saying, in reference to Ukraine's 2004 "Orange" revolution.

Mr Mugabe (81) has been in power since the end of white minority rule in the former British colony in 1980.

Once hailed by the international community as a role model, he has spent the past five years cast as a pariah amid charges he rigged the last major parliamentary vote in 2000 to ensure his ruling ZANU-PF party won and his own re-election as president in 2002.

Under the pressure of the mass eviction of white commercial farmers since 2000, the backbone of the once thriving agrarian economy has snapped leading to hyper inflation, massive unemployment and critical food shortages.

Zimbabwe's main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) says political violence has dropped this year ahead of Thursday's poll but says the government has kept the voter roll in a shambles and intimidation continues.

The MDC and many other critics say there are hundreds of thousands of non-existent "ghost" voters on the register to allow the government to rig the election.

In an interview with Sky News on Sunday, Archbishop Ncube accused Mr Mugabe's government of starving opposition supporters, saying emergency food stations turned away those who did not support the ruling party.

"It is really like a black dictatorship and in many ways worse than a white dictatorship because under the white dictatorship at least they would allow food to flow. But they (ZANU-PF) have stopped non-governmental organisations from helping the people," he said.

The government denies the accusations.

Archbishop Ncube said the president's party would win Thursday's election comfortably.

"No way will elections kick him out. Mugabe has made all his plans. He has cheated in 2000 and 2002."