Archbishop urges Zimbabweans to protest violence
Mugabe foe offers to lead resistance
HARARE, Zimbabwe -- An outspoken Catholic archbishop urged Zimbabweans to fill the streets to protest a surge in state-orchestrated violence, saying yesterday that he was willing to lead a campaign of peaceful resistance to force President Robert Mugabe out of office.
Mugabe's opponents reported that a hospitalized activist had died of injuries suffered when police fired tear gas, live ammunition, and water cannons to stop a March 11 prayer meeting protesting his rule. Police did not confirm the death of Itai Manyeruki, who would be the second activist to die as a result of violence. Gift Tandare, 31, was fatally shot as the meeting was dispersed.
Archbishop Pius Ncube told a gathering of clerics, prodemocracy activists, and mostly Western diplomats in Harare yesterday that "We must be ready to stand, even in front of blazing guns."
"I am ready to stand in front," he said. "The biggest problem is Zimbabweans are cowards, myself included. We must get off our comfortable seats and suffer with the people."
Ncube has long been an ardent critic of Mugabe, 83, and his ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front party.
Ncube said the nation's economic collapse had led to many more deaths than the political violence.
Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change, and another 46 activists were hospitalized after the arrest, beatings, and alleged torture by the police breaking up the prayer meeting organized by the Christian Alliance of Zimbabwe.