Zimbabwean archbishop in London

 The archbishop of Bulawayo, Pius Ncube, is currently visiting London. At a press conference yesterday, he said President Robert Mugabe was planning to starve the population of Zimbabwe into submission before next year's elections, with his ban on food aid from international organizations. He said: "I estimate personally that were it not for the (UN) World Food Programme aid, 500 000 Zimbabweans would have perished from hunger. Now Mugabe is saying there is enough food. it means they are planning to starve people into submission." Archbishop Ncube highlighted the "panoply of laws which make free and fair elections impossible: the crushing of freedom of association and speech; omnipresent spying, politicisation of the judiciary, police and army; brutality against and harassment of opponents, the regime's refusal to publish the voters' roll, which contains an estimated 1.4 million dead or duplicated voters, and the general climate of fear". The archbishop is also in Britain to promote the Zimbabwe Defence and Aid Fund UK and the Zimbabwe Benefit Foundation, of which he and South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu are patrons. Modelled on the apartheid era International Defence and Aid Fund, these two organisations were formed to pay legal expenses for people arbitrarily arrested and often beaten up by government militias and police. On many occasions they are not charged with anything. The fund also provides practical assistance for these people and their families. During his visit the archbishop will be meeting church leaders and aid organisations. On Saturday he will visit the vigil held each week outside the Zimbabwe Embassy in the Strand in London in protest against abuses by the regime. Organisers pledge to continue the vigil until internationally monitored free and fair elections are held. Archbishop Ncube, who has always called for peaceful change, said he feared his country could erupt into riots which would brutally suppressed by the army. He said: "It would be tragic if all of a sudden people went violent. Mugabe will call the army he is a cruel man." A report released this week by the Solidarity Peace Trust - Disturbing the Peace - said more than 1,200 people were arrested in Zimbabwe between February 2003 and January 2004 under the draconian Public Order and Security Act, which makes it virtually impossible for opposition or civil society groups to hold meetings, and various other laws suppressing democratic rights. The arrests analysed were those reported by 27 law firms taking part in the survey, and so did not include the larger number of cases where there was no legal representation. In none of the cases surveyed was there a prosecution and guilty verdict, while 73% "remain hanging over the heads of the victims of this policy of vexatious arrest," the report said. `"This means repeated court appearances at considerable expense." The archbishop said he was disappointed by South African President Thabo Mbeki, who refuses to criticise Mugabe and effectively props up the regime. And he urged that Britain should confront Mugabe's tactic of setting up Prime Minister Tony Blair as a No 1 enemy and blaming Britain, or the West generally, for the country's ills. "Secretly I think he admires the British," the archbishop said. "His accent is quite unique among Africans. He had a good Catholic education. He knows full well what is right but he is too embarrassed, too proud to own up that he is causing suffering to his own people." Source: ZW News/JS

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