Zimbabwe clergyman urges Mugabe's ouster
One of Zimbabwe's most outspoken church leaders on Sunday called for a peaceful uprising against President Robert Mugabe's rule, days before a parliamentary election that rights groups say already is tainted by years of violence and intimidation.
Roman Catholic Archbishop Pius Ncube of Zimbabwe's second-largest city, Bulawayo, said he was willing to put on his vestments and lead a march to Mugabe's residence himself, but feared: "If I do it, I do it alone."
"The people are so scared," he said. "You are not going to get that where people are so cowardly."
Mugabe, a former guerrilla leader, has led Zimbabwe since the end of white rule in 1980. Ncube believes Mugabe's Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front party will easily win Thursday's poll, which he said is certain to be rigged.
"I hope that people get so disillusioned that they really organize against the government and kick him out by a nonviolent, popular, mass uprising," Ncube said in a separate interview with the South African newspaper The Sunday Independent. "Because as it is, people have been too soft with this government."
While this year's election has been less blatantly violent than previous ones, Ncube said "a kind of tacit violence" persists.
He accused the government of denying desperately needed food aid to opposition supporters in rural centers like Filabusi, 250 miles south of Harare, where he said more than 200 hungry families had been turned away.
Ncube also was critical of opposition leaders, who have been at pains to avoid bloodshed since at least 200 people were killed during the government's often violent seizure of thousands of white-owned farms for redistribution to black Zimbabweans.
"We do not have a leader to lead us. We need someone who is courageous," Ncube said. "People must be ready even to risk losing their lives; everyone wants to keep safe."
The tumultuous land reform program, combined with years of drought and a government crackdown on dissent, have plunged the nation of nearly 13 million people into international isolation and economic crisis.
Opposition leaders remain hopeful that change can be brought through the ballot box, encouraged by large turnouts at their rallies in recent days.
"What is needed by Zimbabwe is a new vision, a new Zimbabwe that is able to respond to the crisis that we find ourselves in," MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai told some 20,000 supporters at a rally Sunday in an impoverished Harare neighborhood.
"Go and vote for food, go and vote for jobs, go and vote for MDC ¡ª and go and vote for your future."
After the rally, opposition officials said police "ran amok" in the Mbare neighborhood, beating up anyone seen putting on MDC T-shirts. Four people were injured and nearly 200 arrested as they left the event singing and chanting slogans, the opposition said in a statement.
Many were released without charge, but at least six were charged with conduct likely to provoke a breach of peace, the statement said. Police could not immediately be reached for comment.