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Zimbabwe church leaders sucked into Wikileaks revelations

by Staff reporter
08 September 2011 | 1142 Views
WIKILEAKS cables reveal that in 2006 some church leaders intended to court Zanu-PF to participate in activities that would lead to regime change.

The Mutare "bishops troika" comprising Trevor Manhanga (Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe) Patrick Mutume (Catholic Church) and Sebastian Bakare (Anglican Church) met US ambassador Christopher Dell at his offices in Harare on December 19, 2005 and explained how they intended to execute their plan.

The bishops reportedly said they had planned a meeting early in 2006 to discuss ways to influence people towards a possible "indaba-style" gathering on a new constitution.

They reportedly told Mr Dell that the new year would see a reinvigorated effort by the churches "to create momentum against the regime".

Mr Dell said the bishops acknowledged the risks he raised that Zanu-PF would manipulate such a diverse constitutional indaba to its advantage.

"Nonetheless, they maintained that while Zanu-PF had cynically sought the 'churches' vision' to exploit for its own purposes, the churches would exploit the offer to create their own momentum against the regime.

"The bishops said they intended next year to 'get the people out in numbers,' numbers that the regime would have to respect," said Mr Dell.

The US Ambassador further stated in his brief that the bishops intended to start by getting church leaders together in the new-year to discuss a common constitutional agenda that was likely to revolve around social and economic issues at the centre of Zimbabweans' concerns.

They would consult other democratic forces.

Last night, Bishop Manhanga confirmed meeting Mr Dell and the British ambassador but denied ever trying to influence people to rise against the Zanu-PF Government.

"No such thing ever happened. We were working cordially with the two political parties here," said Bishop Manhanga.

He said over a period of time they were trying to bring Zanu-PF and MDC together and encouraging them to come up with a new Constitution for Zimbabwe.

"We were looking at diffusing the tension between the two sides. We wanted them to talk to each other. We met Dell and the British ambassador over a period of time trying to find a solution to challenges facing the country that time," he said.

During the meetings, Bishop Manhanga said, one of the issues that featured prominently was the stand off between Zimbabwe and the British government over land.

He also said they met former South African President Mr Thabo Mbeki, Bakili Muluzi, the then Malawi President, former Mozambican President Joachim Chissano among other Sadc heads of State and Government to bring the two parties together.

Bishop Mutume said he could not remember meeting Dell, but was quick to dismiss the allegations as "very untrue".

"How can we do that? It was not possible to do that as we were trying to get the two parties (Zanu-PF and MDC) to do what has resulted in the present situation," said Bishop Mutume.

He said regime change was never part of their agenda.

"Our effort was trying to engage the two feuding parties to find a common ground and work together peacefully," said Bishop Mutume.

Retired Bishop Bakare could not be reached for comment.

According to the cables, the bishops exploited the opportunity they got to engage the Zanu-PF leaders.

"A principal opening in this regard was an approach to them before the Senate elections by Zanu-PF party chairman John Nkomo (now Vice President) and (former) Information Secretary Nathan Shamuyarira.

"According to the bishops, Nkomo and Shamuyarira asked them to articulate a proposal for bipartisan dialogue in Parliament to support a new constitution. After the senate elections and the opening of the MDC rift, the Zanu-PF 'moderates' asked them to expand it beyond the Parliament to a broader stakeholder 'indaba,' including strong Government of Zimbabwe critics such as Lovemore Madhuku's National Constitutional Assembly."

Mr Dell noted at the time that the MDC was absorbed by internecine struggles.

However, the bishops allegedly told him that they had consulted the previous week with MDC president Morgan Tsvangirai, who said the party would not be prepared for meaningful outside engagement until after the party congress in February.

"The bishops maintained that in any event, when the time came, churches and all other stakeholders would be driven by the imperative to limit executive power and assure that the country would 'never, never again' experience the centralised autocracy of Mugabeism," said Mr Dell.

He said the bishops agreed with the ambassador that a de facto political transition was already underway as people increasingly focused on the post Mugabe era and that the nation's economic implosion was a liability from which the ruling party could not escape.

Everybody, he said, knew Zanu-PF had no plan; Zimbabweans --- including many in the ruling party -- were suffering and angry.

"Sanctions were useful in that they imposed "economic accountability" on those who otherwise enjoyed impunity.

"Moreover, the churches and others had lists of the perpetrators of abuses who would one day have to be called to account, whether by a truth commission or any other number of options that might 'give expression to people's anger."

In 2005, Bishop Manhanga chaired the Heads of Christian Denominations, which came up with a draft document titled "The Zimbabwe We Want-Towards a National Vision".

The church's vision was to call for a national reconciliation process entailing the setting aside of political differences for the country's common good and for the realisation of economic turnaround.

Copies of the document were presented to President Mugabe, the two MDC formations and civic organisations.

Church Leaders Wikileaks

Source: TH


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