Mugabe condemns Archbishop who called for mass uprising as 'halfwit'

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The Independent Online

Robert Mugabe, the Zimbabwean President, has called the influential Archbishop of Bulawayo a "halfwit", after he called for a non-violent mass uprising to end his 25-year rule.

Robert Mugabe, the Zimbabwean President, has called the influential Archbishop of Bulawayo a "halfwit", after he called for a non-violent mass uprising to end his 25-year rule.

Clearly stung by the comments of the Most Rev Pius Ncube, the Catholic Archbishop who is a prominent critic of the President, Mr Mugabe spoke out as he was campaigning south of Harare, ahead of the election on Thursday.

The Archbishop says the elections for a new parliament are certain to be rigged, and that Zimbabweans should stage a Ukraine-style "popular mass uprising" to remove the 81-year-old President after the poll.

"I hope people get so disillusioned that they really organise against this government and kick him [Mr Mugabe] out by non-violent popular mass uprising," he said. "Because as it is people have been too soft with this government. So people should pluck up just a bit of courage and stand up against him and chase him away."

The Archbishop, based in Zimbabwe's second city in the opposition heartland of Matabeleland, has not hesitated to criticise Mr Mugabe in the run-up to the election. He has accused the government of starving the people into submission by withholding food aid to political opponents in drought-stricken areas. In his Easter sermon, he said: "Somewhere there shall come a resurrection for Zimbabwe."

In comments to The Economist, he said: "People just pray that Mugabe should die. I pray for that."

In Chivu yesterday, the home town of his wife Grace, Mr Mugabe retorted: "I don't know to which God he prays. His prayers are not as pious as his name suggests apparently. He is ... a halfwit. I don't know why the Vatican tolerates prayers of that nature."

Earlier, Nathan Shamuyarira, a spokesman for Mr Mugabe, said that Archbishop Ncube was "a mad, inveterate liar". "He has been lying for the past two years. As an archbishop, we expect him to tell the truth and to respect the people of Matabeleland. He, however, fits into the scheme of the British and Americans, who are calling for regime change and are feeding him with these wild ideas."

No one doubts that the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) would win the vote if the polling were free and fair. The MDC says that only massive rigging by the ruling Zanu-PF prevented it from winning the 2000 parliamentary vote, and that its leader Morgan Tsvangirai would have won a presidential vote two years later, were it not for rigging by Zanu-PF.

While this election campaign has not been marred by the violence of the earlier polls, Mr Mugabe seems to have the election results sewn up. He has the right to pick 30 MPs in the 120-seat parliament.

Archbishop Ncube told South Africa's Sunday Independent: "Mugabe has made all his plans. He has cheated in 2000 and 2002." But it remains to be seen whether the electorate, cowed by years of political intimidation and hunger, might take up the Archbishop's challenge and chase the tyrant from power.

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