Archbishop Ncube is Zimbabwe’s only answer to oppose Mugabe

By  Catholic News Service
  • April 17, 2007
As Zimbabwe suffers another round of brutal repression at the hands of President Robert Mugabe and his henchmen, everybody is offering solutions.
The range is wide, from a call to arms by a beaten up and bedridden Nelson Chamisa, an opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Member of Parliament, to a motion for Western courts to indict the despotic leader as a war criminal by Dr. Keith Martin, a Liberal MP in Canada.

Then there is a call to dialogue by the Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC) supported by the Southern African Council of Churches (SACC). Not surprisingly, the ZCC is reviving its call for Mugabe to hand over power to a neutral force (the church) for the dialogue to take place in a conducive atmosphere with both antagonistic sides coming in at the same level.

This is a brilliant idea that is going to remain an idea for a number of reasons.

In the first instance, the current leadership of the ZCC, an umbrella body of all religious groups in the country, is not exactly national leadership material. If Mugabe and the opposition were somehow persuaded to negotiate through the ZCC, then wise counsel would suggest that someone outside the ZCC hierarchy be chosen to lead the country in the interim or at least lead the dialogue. Therein lies the problem, but I am going ahead of myself.

Why am I saying the ZCC leadership is discredited? In the early skirmishes between the government and the opposition from the time of the contentious parliamentary elections of 2000 and the presidential poll of 2002, both Mugabe and MDC president Morgan Tsvangirai seemed ready to work with or under the divine guidance of the men of the cloth.

As could have been expected, Mugabe wanted to make sure things would go his way. He demanded that only members of the clergy who respected him should be part of the ZCC team to meet him and Tsvangirai. The ZCC agreed readily but the opposition saw a trap and backed out. Since then the ZCC leadership has been viewed as a front for Mugabe and his ruling Zanu PF party. As if to buttress the point, the ZCC leadership would be seen at Zanu PF fund-raisers and other functions.

But important to note is that when Mugabe demanded certain clergy be excluded from any negotiations, he had one man in mind, the archbishop of Bulawayo, Archbishop Pius Ncube. The man who has turned out to be Mugabe’s harshest non-political critic.

If anything, Ncube may not have the worldwide profile of the likes of Anglican Bishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa but his forthrightness stings like venom to Mugabe. He does not curry favour. He calls a spade what it really is.

He has called Mugabe such names as “gangster,” “hooligan,” “terrorist,” “murderer” and many more. But those names have not been thrown around willy-nilly. He has always backed them up with facts of the human rights abuses Mugabe has authored over the close to three decades that he has ruled Zimbabwe. From the Gukurahundi massacres in Matabeleland that killed more than 20,000 people in the early 1980s to the farm invasions of 2000 and the current crackdown on opposition members, Ncube has been at the forefront of condemning Mugabe.

But what worries Mugabe more is the fact the archbishop is the only person who has managed to call Mugabe’s bluff and matches him in articulation, a national following and the ability to lead. Ncube leads the most populous church in Zimbabwe and commands more respect in other religions than any other clergy in the country. On top of that, he counts on all the people of Matabeleland, Midlands and Masvingo provinces to back him on any move he makes.

With the opposition now split, Ncube becomes the only person with a national profile and leadership qualities who could be accepted by the majority in the nation and by the international community.

But, of course, Mugabe is no fool. He may have lost the war of words against the archbishop but he still holds sway among Ncube’s colleagues in the ZCC.

So, just as he demanded that Ncube be left out of the initial negotiation brokerage group that was almost set up a few years ago, he would make sure Ncube does not make any such team this time around because he might as well surrender Zimbabwe House to him. Yet, if anybody should consider the clergy to lead in any political settlement in Zimbabwe, it might actually be easier to disarm Mugabe’s thugs than to set up a negotiation brokerage without Ncube, who announced recently his readiness to emulate Cardinal Jaime Sin of the Philippines who helped unseat Ferdinand Marcos in 1986.

“If we can get 30,000 people in the streets, Mugabe will go down. I am prepared to lead the people against Mugabe. Like in the Philippines, our security forces will side with us if we are courageous.”

(Madawo, a native of Zimbabwe, is a freelance writer in Toronto.)

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