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Zimbabwe church steps up criticism of Mugabe


Zimbabwe's Catholic Church unleashed a stinging criticism of President Robert Mugabe's regime in a pastoral letter yesterday, accusing it of "frightening" abuses of human rights, misrule and corruption.

The letter from the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishop's Conference also directly accused the government of deliberately withholding food for political reasons "while people are starving".

The letter is seen as the most critical stance the Catholic church, the most powerful in the country, has taken in the last three years of state-driven lawlessness. It directly attacked Mugabe's leadership.

"Government has failed to provide leadership that enables the creation of an environment that enhances truth, justice, love and freedom," it said. "Economic inequalities have become worse, the gap between the rich and the poor has continued to widen.

"People have continued to suffer social and political violence. There is no sign that corruption is being with effectively. Democratic institutions and processes have been tampered with."

Ironically, the denunciation of the government coincided with an announcement that the ruling ZANU(PF) party's politburo, the party's senior executive body, is to consider whether the late Archbishop Patrick Chakaipa (71), the former head of the church in Zimbabwe who died of cancer last week, should be declared a "national hero".

Catholicism is the country's dominant faith, but most of the church's hierarchy is widely criticised for its silence over the regime's abuses.

SOURCE
South African Press Association


15 Apr 2003