Other Arch tells Mugabe of ills

2011-10-15 15:27

Although Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe and the world leader of the Anglican Church, the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams, shared tea and scones this week, there is still no sign of an end to the ongoing troubles of Zimbabwe’s Anglican Church.

Williams raised the issue of the “persecution” by fierce Mugabe ally Bishop Nolbert Kunonga of a long list of Anglican Church priests and leaders in Zimbabwe.

The violence has been chronicled in a damning dossier backdated to 2007.

The dossier, which the archbishop handed to Mugabe this week, also highlights police brutality. The police have spearheaded countrywide beatings, arrests and evictions of church worshippers loyal to “rival” Bishop Chad Gandiya.

“We have asked him [Mugabe] that he use his powers as head of state to guarantee the security of those of his citizens who worship with the Anglican Church and put an end to unacceptable and illegal behaviour.”

The meeting, which Williams described as “candid where disagreements were expressed in a peaceable manner”, is the first high-level meeting with a top British official in more than 10 years, since Harare’s fallout with London over land invasions in 2000. “The president expressed concern over the damage and said he would speak to Kunonga.”

Meanwhile, a landmark high court judgment last week condemned the violent political murder in 2009 of a Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) activist Moses Chokuda by four Zanu-PF youths. The judgment has tipped the scales against Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party.

Four Zanu-PF aligned youths were sentenced by Judge Nicholas Mathonsi to 18 years in jail each. They are the sons of prominent Zanu-PF governor Farai Machaya. The brothers are named Bothwell and Edson Gana and Abel Maphosa.

The judgment emboldened human rights groups and civic society organisations to criticise Zanu-PF’s pattern of violence and intimidation, which in the past has always spiked in the run up to elections.

Abel Chikomo, the executive director of the Zimbabwe NGO Forum, says: “Going into the elections, which are well known to be bloody in Zimbabwe, we hope that youths, who have been the main instruments of violence, will take a cue from this judgment and will be deterred from committing any further acts of violence.”

In his ruling, Judge Mathonsi said his sentence would “send a clear message to everyone on the sanctity of life”.

Now there is pressure on the militant Zanu-PF youth group “Chipangano”, a Shona term meaning agreement among many people. It was formed in the 1980s as a Zanu-PF hitsquad and is based in Harare’s oldest township, Mbare. Chipangano is notorious for looting, murder, violence, torture and, according to the MDC, “now virtually runs all of Harare”.

Last month, Chipangano stormed Parliament and beat up journalists, lawyers and MDC legislator Tabitha Khumalo. Ironically this was as Mugabe opened the Fourth Session of Parliament, making spirited calls for peace.

Chipangano comprises four branches – each with a distinct modus operandi. The first group identifies MDC activists; the second group carries out surveillance and monitors individuals and structures of the MDC; the third group approaches MDC members and warns them of the dire consequences of supporting the party. The fourth group is seen as the deadliest of all. “This group beats the hell out of you,” Khumalo said.

“It is so shocking that a group of people can enter Parliament where we felt secure and safe and beat up members of Parliament. Only a group linked to Zanu-PF can do this.”

But Zanu-PF is split over its link to Chipangano, with some party leaders like Youth, Development, Empowerment and Indigenisation Minister Saviour Kusukwere claiming “ownership” of it, while Zanu-PF party spokesperson Rugare Gumbo has disowned it, a sign Zanu-PF may be wary of openly supporting Chipangano ahead of the crucial elections.

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