26 March 2002

Africa: 'UK Using Tutu to Demonise President Mugabe'

BISHOPS for Peace in Africa yesterday accused former South African Anglican Church Archbishop Desmond Tutu of being used by the British to demonise President Robert Mugabe's re-election.

"He should not be a parrot. He belongs to the British church of which the Queen is head and now they are using him to add his voice in their campaign against Mugabe," the clerical grouping said.

The criticism came in the wake of a televised interview in which Mr Tutu said he was deeply distressed that his country had done itself a disservice by calling Zimbabwe's March 9-11 presidential election legitimate.

"I am deeply, deeply, deeply distressed and disappointed that our country could be among those who say the election was legitimate or free and fair when we are claiming to be adherents of democracy," Mr Tutu told the SABC's Newsmaker programme.

The Nobel peace laureate said he had found President Mugabe's recent behaviour unacceptable and that he backed a Commonwealth decision to suspend Zimbabwe for a year after the March poll, which critics of the Government say was flawed.

But Bishops for Peace in Africa yesterday said: "Tutu is endorsing the British government resolution by failing to respect the elections.

"Sadc, the OAU and all other African countries have endorsed the election as free and fair.

"He should not be part of axis of racism. It's unchristian, unprincipled, uncultured and ill-advised . . . We will take him from where we respected him down to something else.

"He cannot be right all the time. He is dividing the community and not building it. He has overstepped his goodness and credentials by speaking like a politician instead of like a man of God."

Bishops for Peace in Africa, which is a network of bishops from main line and independent churches in Eastern, Central and Southern Africa, said Mr Tutu should acknowledge that land is at the core of problems in Zimbabwe.

"Land is the cause of conflict. The church is about justice and peace and we see land as the root cause of Zimbabwe's demonisation by the West," the clerical grouping said.

"Tutu should not be a sellout but a community builder. He should go back to his credentials and be a reconciliator rather than a destroyer."

The land reform programme, the network said, was in accordance with the command of God, that man should fend, guard and protect his land.

It praised Anglican Church Bishop Nobert Kunonga's unwavering stance on the land, saying his stance was driven by his understanding of the church's principles of justice and equality in accessing resources.

Cde Mugabe received 56,2 percent of the valid vote to MDC president Morgan Tsvangirai's 42 percent in a poll which was widely endorsed as free and fair by observer groups from Sadc, OAU, Nigeria, South Africa, Namibia and many other African countries.

Britain, the US, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, the Commonwealth and other Western observer groups say the hotly contested poll was flawed and illegitimate.

Criticism of the country stems from the Government's moves to resettle thousands of landless peasants on fertile white-owned commercial farms.

About 4 500 settlers, largely British, own over 70 percent of the best arable, prime fertile land in the country.

More than a million black communal farmers are still farming the poorest land, 16,3 million hectares in all compared to 11,2 million of prime fertile land owned by white commercial farmers.

Britain has reneged on its previous pledges to help fund the land reform programme.

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