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Bakare gives warning over Zimbabwe

31 July 2008

by Bill Bowder

NEGOTIATIONS brokered by South Africa between the President of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, and the leader of the opposition party, Morgan Tsvangirai, faltered this week.

Supporters from Mr Tsvangirai’s party, the Movement for Democratic Change, who believe their candidate should be president after his win in the first round of presidential elections, said he had been offered the post of third vice-president — a position with no power.

“It’s a joke; we won’t go anywhere near that,” one supporter told the press. Two negotiators from President Mugabe’s ruling party, Zanu-PF, returned to Harare to receive instructions amid fears the talks would break down completely.

At the Lambeth Conference, the Bishop of Harare, Dr Sebastian Bakare, told the press that the last time Mr Mugabe entered into a power-sharing arrangement, with the political party ZAPU, that party had disappeared.

“The other memorandum of understanding which was entered into by Robert Mugabe and Joshua Nkomo (president of ZAPU) ended up swallowing another party, and Mugabe emerged,” Dr Bakare said. “I want to believe that those on the opposition side are aware of the fact that Mugabe is not there just to hand in power.

“We have been living under a system that has been so oppressive, and denied people their human rights. We have not been allowed to worship in our church buildings every Sunday since November last year. Police surround our churches every morning to refuse us entry to our buildings.”

Since November, Dr Bakare said, churchgoers had found the courage to face armed riot-police. On many occasions the police had barged in, “even pulling people from the communion rail, driving them out.

“This is the context in which the Church has to bear witness to the Gospel: where people are denied to worship freely, preaching the Good News becomes a challenge because of the instruments of intimidation.”

Never, he said, had he been more conscious of the importance of the gospel message of peace and justice. The Good News he preached was that “earthly powers come and go, but people remain”.

The World Council of Churches, along with other global church groups, called on the Zimbabwean government to end the ban on the distribution of humanitarian aid “immediately and without conditions”. If not, more than five million people faced starvation, they said.

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