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Mugabe threatens church leader

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe has demanded the resignation of Archbishop Pius Ncube, for refusing to co-operate with the government in upgrading a mission hospital - the missionary news service (MISNA) reports.

During a rally on Thursday, Mugabe said the archbishop should declare his political affiliation and stop frustrating government 'plans'.

Church commentators said the archbishop had not co-operated with the government by upgrading Lupane mission hospital using church money, in the run-up to the elections, as the credit for this would be claimed by the ZANU-PF.

Archbishop Ncube has fallen out with Mugabe by accusing the government of corruption and abuse of power. MISNA said: "in his fight for social justice, the Archbishop has been a towering figure in defending the rights of the poor."

The Zanu-PF party is very unpopular in the Matabeleland region, where Archbishop Ncube is head of the Bulawayo Diocese. It lost almost all seats there during the 2000 parliamentary elections. At the time Mugabe blamed the archbishop for the defeat.

Warning of unspecified action against the archbishop if he made further political comments, the Jesuit-educated president said: "We do not want to create trouble with men of God but I think Archbishop Ncube has gone too far. If he continues with his political stance we will challenge him as a politician."

Zimbabwe: pastoral council defends outspoken Archbishop (ICN 25/01/02)
Archbishop accuses Zanu PF of hypocrisy (The Daily News 12/01/02)