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Southern African church calls for stronger action on Zimbabwe


Churches in southern Africa are calling on their governments to place direct pressure on the government of President Robert Mugabe, as leaders from the region gather in Tanzania for an emergency summit to discuss the crisis in Zimbabwe.

"As the church, we are convinced that Zimbabwe is under the clutches of oppressive rule, and those who are committed to democratic rule must mobilise for change," said the Rev. Prince Dibeela, general secretary of the United Congregational Church in Southern Africa. He was speaking in advance of the 29 March meeting of the leaders of the Southern African Development Community countries.

"It is also important that we engage the SADC leadership to address the question of Zimbabwe more candidly," said Dibeela, speaking at a meeting in Cape Town of his denomination’s executive committee. He noted the committee had expressed unease at the "quiet diplomacy adopted by political leaders in the region" to deal with Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change party was on 28 March arrested in a raid on his headquarters in Harare. A lawyer acting for the opposition group said on 29 March he believed the MDC leader had since been released, but efforts to contact him had failed.

The United Congregational Church has synods in five countries of the region, including Zimbabwe.

"The persecution of people in Zimbabwe is unacceptable. Zimbabweans are paying a high price for Robert Mugabe’s misgovernment, languishing in prison and also in asylum centres in other southern African countries to which they have fled," said Dibeela, who is a member of the central committee of the Geneva-based World Council of Churches. "I believe that, as a church, we need to address this issue head on and prepare the people of Zimbabwe for life after Mugabe."

The Congregational church’s executive is to request the Council for World Mission, which groups 31 churches around the world, most of them from the Reformed tradition, to convene a meeting "to develop a strategy for the emancipation of Zimbabwe". 

 (c) Ecumenical News International