/ 21 September 2007

Zimbabwe lashes British cleric

Zimbabwe’s information minister on Friday hit out at calls by the Archbishop of York to step up punitive measures against President Robert Mugabe’s government, accusing the cleric of calling for more suffering for Zimbabweans.

The calls for stiffer sanctions against Zimbabwe by Archbishop John Sentamu were misplaced and unfortunate, Information Minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu said in comments carried by the government mouthpiece Herald daily.

”It’s unfortunate that the Archbishop of York is on the forefront of calling for sanctions on Zimbabweans,” said Ndlovu.

This shows how the men of cloth are being used to dabble in the country’s politics, he said.

On Sunday, Sentamu, writing in the Observer newspaper compared Mugabe to the late Ugandan dictator Idi Amin and called for sanctions comparable to those imposed on South Africa’s former apartheid regime and on Mugabe’s predecessor, Ian Smith, prime minister of the then Rhodesia.

The archbishop said regional efforts led by South African President, Thabo Mbeki, to end the social, economic and political crises had failed.

At worst, Mbeki is complicit in his failing to lead the charge against a neighbour who is systematically raping the country he leads, wrote the cleric.

Sentamu called on British Prime Minister Gordon Brown to ratchet up pressure on Harare and to lead an international response to the crisis in the once-prosperous Southern African country.

Poverty, unemployment and hunger are on the increase in Zimbabwe, where inflation is over 6 500% and there are chronic shortages of food, power, fuel and medicines.

But Ndlovu said the recent decision by the main opposition party to back amendments to the Constitution that will allow joint parliamentary and presidential elections to take place next year showed that Zimbabwe was able to solve its problems together with friendly neighbours.

”It is a clear testimony that we do not need foreigners to help us resolve our differences and to move forward,” said Ndlovu.


On Thursday, the South African Cabinet welcomed the amendments.

”South Africa wishes to congratulate the Zimbabwean political leadership for this major step forward in addressing the challenges facing that country,” government communications deputy head Baby Tyawa said on Thursday in a statement after the Cabinet’s regular fortnightly meeting.

”Proceeding from the premise that the people of Zimbabwe are the ones best placed to find solutions to the challenges they face, we will continue to assist where we can, in line with the mandate of SADC [Southern African Development Community], to ensure that these processes result in a lasting settlement,” Tyawa said.

The ruling Zanu-PF and the two factions of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) agreed this week to create a bigger Parliament of 210 elected members.

Currently the lower house of assembly has 120 elected members.

Thirty other seats are taken by chiefs, generally seen as loyal to Mugabe, as well as governors and non-constituency MPs directly appointed by the president.

If the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment Bill is passed into law, the 83-year old president will only be allowed to appoint some members of the upper house of Parliament, the Senate.

The number of seats in the Senate will be increased from 66 to 93.

Sixteen chiefs will have seats in the Senate, as will 10 provincial governors who are chosen by Mugabe. The president will also handpick five more senators.

The Bill allows for joint presidential and parliamentary polls in 2008 and had been condemned by some as a means of entrenching Mugabe’s hold on power. – Sapa, Sapa-DPA