ENGLAND: Christian leaders to warn Zimbabwean PM on Mugabe links

June 17, 2009

Zimbabwe's prime minister, Morgan Tsvangirai, is to address Zimbabweans living in exile in Britain, including Christian leaders, when he visits London on June 20 to brief them about the situation in the beleaguered southern African state.

Tsvangirai was sworn in as prime minister of Zimbabwe in February. This came after a bitterly contested presidential election in 2008 with President Robert Mugabe that eventually led to an agreement to form a unity government.

In an interview with Ecumenical News International, the Rev. Qobo Mayisa, secretary general of the London-based Council of Zimbabwean Christian Leaders, said, "We want to tell our new prime minister that people here believe he is trying too hard to please Robert Mugabe. We know Morgan Tsvangirai has good intentions but there can be no healing in Zimbabwe without truth and justice."

The CZCL describes itself as "a body of Christian leaders and professionals in the United Kingdom who are of Zimbabwean heritage." The group adds that it seeks "to promote justice and peace within the Zimbabwean community."

Tsvangirai is presently on a tour of the United States and Europe to raise the image of his bitterly divided and close-to-bankrupt country. In Britain, he is to speak at Southwark (Anglican) Cathedral in south London.

The Diocese of Southwark has links to four Anglican dioceses in Zimbabwe, which gained its independence from Britain in 1980.

Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change party won a March 2008 parliamentary election, and at the same time also won the first round of the presidential election but the government's electoral commission declared there should be a run-off poll because Tsvangirai had not achieved a sufficient majority. Tsvangirai pulled out of the run-off, and cited lethal violence against his supporters for this decision. Mugabe went on to win a presidential election that the international community has not recognized.

Subsequent mediation by former South African president Thabo Mbeki resulted in the power-sharing agreement.

"Justice must prevail, and as Christians we are simply not interested in this schoolboy reconciliation between Tsvangirai and Mugabe -- all the shaking hands and pictures of them smiling in the papers," said the CZCL's Mayisa.

The chairperson of the group, the Rev. Levy Moyo, said most Zimbabweans in exile respected Tsvangirai. "But he must not be seen as the man who saved Robert Mugabe," said Moyo.

"Thousands of ordinary people have been tortured by the army and police under the regime of Robert Mugabe," added Moyo, who is an Apostolic Church minister long resident in Britain. "They must never be forgotten."

On June 26, also at Southwark Cathedral, the CZCL is to hold a service of solidarity with victims of torture in Zimbabwe.

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