Christina Lamb, Australian, July 2, 2007
ZIMBABWE’S leading cleric has called on Britain to invade the country and topple President Robert Mugabe.
Pius Ncube, the Archbishop of Bulawayo, warned that millions were facing death from famine, unable to survive amid inflation believed to have soared to 15,000 per cent.
Mr Mugabe, 83, had proved intransigent despite the “massive risk to life”, said Archbishop Ncube, the head of Zimbabwe’s one million Catholics.
“I think it is justified for Britain to raid Zimbabwe and remove Mugabe,’ he said.
“We should do it ourselves but there’s too much fear. I’m ready to lead the people, guns blazing, but the people are not ready.”
In some parts of Zimbabwe 95 per cent of crops have failed, leaving families with only two or three weeks’ food supply to last ayear.
Prices are more than doubling every week and US ambassador Christopher Dell has predicted inflation could hit 1.5 million per cent by the end of the year.
Archbishop Ncube said that far from helping those struggling, Mr Mugabe had just spent $2.4 million on surveillance equipment to monitor phone calls and emails.
“How can you expect people to rise up when even our church services are attended by state intelligence people?” he said.
“People in our mission hospitals are dying of malnutrition. We had the best education in Africa and now our schools are closing. Most people are earning less than their bus fares. There’s no water or power.
“Is the world just going to let everything collapse in on us?”
The comments came as inflation forced relatively well-paid teachers to work as prostitutes in order to afford one meal a day.
High school teacher Stella Sithole said her salary of $Z2.1million was six times what she got last month but did not cover her bus fare and that she had to do sex work to feed her children.
For several days of the week, instead of standing in front of her class in Kwekwe teaching history and geography, Ms Sithole travels to Harare. There, she sits at the bar in clubs such as Chez Ntemba, Chez Mambo and the Stars Studio at Rainbow Towers hotel, waiting for a proposition. On a pulsating Friday night at the Stars Studio, there is no shortage of takers.
“Ministers,” she whispers, “or Zanu big men.”
While the vast majority of Zimbabweans are struggling to survive, members of the Mugabe elite are finding that things have never been so good.
Not only government ministers and officials from the ruling Zanu-PF party, but also top police and army officers and High Court judges have been cleverly woven into Mr Mugabe’s patronage system, benefiting hugely from his despotic rule.
Many have been allotted property that was violently seized from white farmers. But their real wealth comes from access to foreign exchange at less than 1000th of the rate on the streets.
This enables them to buy expensive vehicles such as the Hummers, S-class Mercedes and Toyota Prados that fill hotel carparks in Harare.
At the start of term in May more than 5000 teachers in Zimbabwe did not return to their posts. The children left behind are just told to sit and read.
“Zimbabweans sacrifice bread for books to get their children to school, then there’s no teaching,” said James Elder of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Harare.
He pointed out that the pass rate had dropped sharply—just 37 per cent passed Grade 7.
The Mugabe elite’s children attend private schools or study in Britain, the US or Australia. They can afford this because of the beneficial exchange rate.
“Those with access to power are literally bleeding the country and becoming richer daily,” said Roy Bennett, a leading member of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) who had to flee to South Africa after 10 months in jail. “There’s an elite of around 5000 scoring from the situation and there are enough of them in high places to maintain the status quo.
“They realise their only way to survive is to keep Mugabe there, because once he goes it’s a bun-fight between them.”