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Students call for Mugabe's excommunication

The Vatican is being urged to excommunicate Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe.

The move follows a request from the International Union of Students, according to reports.

The union's political advisor to the secretary for African affairs has written to the Chief Cardinal to the Vatican. He is calling for action to be taken against Mugabe, whom he says presides over a repressive government.

According to The Standard newspaper, part of the letter from the Prague-based student umbrella body said: "Our request is premised on the following: Mr Mugabe presides over a government that massacred thousands of civilians in Matabeleland in the early 1980s in Zimbabwe.

"As a means of reviving his fading political fortunes he has deployed some ex-freedom fighters to harass, harangue, torture, rape and murder supporters of opposition parties in the country."

If ex-communicated, President Mugabe would join the ranks of Cuba's Fidel Castro, who was excommunicated in 1962.

Local Catholic officials have also expressed bitterness towards the current political instability and have called upon the government to respect the rule of law.

The ailing president recently renewed his support for the controversial farm invasions.

"We are committed to this program. We will not retreat," he told thousands of mourners gathered at the burial ceremony of notorious war veterans leader, Chenjerai Hunzvi, last week.