Mugabe - 'Biblical beast of anarchy'

Members of Zimbabwe's major churches have denounced President Robert Mugabe's government as the biblical "beast of anarchy" and vowed to mount a campaign to force the government to restore democracy and end its "oppressive" rule.

A statement by 109 pastors, priests and laymen from 59 churches condemned the government for political violence, the breakdown of the rule of law, suppression of the opposition and the erosion of democracy.

"Any government that negates these fundamental principles (of the rule of law, equality of citizens) to which we are committed, forfeits its God-given mandate to rule," they said. "It cannot therefore demand submission and obedience of its citizens."

The statement described Mugabe's government as the biblical "beast" of the Book of Revelations, "which usurps power and terrorises God's defenceless people, thus fomenting anarchy and lawlessness in the land".

Organisers, however, said the declaration was not a formal position taken by the churches' hierarchy. Conference spokesman Jonah Gokova said the statement was to have been published as an advertisement in the Daily News, but the newspaper was banned on September 12, the day the conference ended.

The churches' statement demanded that Mugabe's government "immediately" repeal the current constitution which "does not nurture democracy" and replace it with a "new people-driven constitution".

It also demanded the repeal of all repressive legislation - including the laws used to ban the Daily News, and the abolition of ZANU-PF's "youth national service" which, it said, was used for the "indoctrination and abuse of young ... to commit serious human rights abuses and violence for party political ends".

The churchmen said the "culture of violence" begun when Zimbabwe was under white minority rule "has been taken to higher levels with impunity by the present regime".

They accepted there was a need for redistribution of land after a century of white domination, but condemned Mugabe's "revolutionary land reform programme". "We do not approve of irresponsible, inhuman, violent, partisan and non-transparent methods of addressing the problem," they said. -Cape Argus (edited)

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