Courage Under Fire: Profile of Archbishop Pius Ncube

A Catholic cleric who has earned praise for confronting Zimbabwe's dictator plays a prophetic role in battling oppression.

On May 20, Archbishop Pius Ncube of Zimbabwe won the Robert Burns International Humanitarian Award in Scotland and dedicated it to Zimbabweans who are persecuted in their country. Journalists and human-rights proponents who seek to alert the world to the increasingly perilous political climate in Zimbabwe have incurred the regime's wrath, risking their freedom and their safety. Both the author of this article and its subject have braved danger to bear witness to their country's crisis.

Zimbabwe's leading Catholic cleric has openly called for divine intervention in restoring the country's fortunes that have been compromised by the lack of truthful leadership and a gross disrespect for human rights and social justice under President Robert Mugabe, himself a Catholic.

Archbishop Pius Ncube of Bulawayo says religion and politics cannot be separated as they both tackle the core issues of spiritual and physical needs of the rulers and those who are ruled. In the case of the beleagured Zimbabwe, once a paragon of independence, democracy, and social justice, President Mugabe has neglected his faith in ruling the country, says Archbishop Ncube.


In the latest example of the kind of merciless tactics against opponents of the regime decried by Ncube, Mugabe launched Operation Murambatsvina, or "drive out the rubbish," on May 19. Government agents have so far demolished 20,000 shacks and market stalls of an estimated 1 million urban poor who make up the core support for the Movement for Democratic Change, Zimbabwe's chief opposition party. With neither shelter or means of support, the displaced are left exposed to the elements and vulnerable to starvation and disease.

I asked Archbishop Ncube what will happen to the poor people whohave now lost what little they had.

"This "clean-up" is the biggest evil action government has carried out to displace between 300,000 and 2 million people," Ncube says. "The churches have been trying to take in some of these people, to bring food and blankets to them, but they can only do so much. Some of their dwellings that have been around for the past 20 to 30 years have been razed to the ground. "The government is bankrupt. It is unable to provide housing for most of these people who were living in the informal settlements. Some of these houses were solid, built with the right architectural designs and with the approval of the council, but have been destroyed all the same. Look at what happened in Kuwadzana [a district of Harare supporting the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, where police are continuing to destroy people's property].

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Julius Dawu
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