Government tried to get Vatican to force Pius Ncube to retire?


The government had approached the Vatican in the early 2000s requesting that it forces the Archbishop of Bulawayo Pius Ncube to retire according to the former director of the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace, Michael Auret.

Auret is quoted in a cable released by Wikileaks that says that Ncube was such a pain to the government that outspoken Information Minister Jonathan Moyo had denounced the catholic priest as a “mad bishop” and called for his resignation.

Academic and government critic John Makumbe said Ncube represented an invincible constituency, the church, and the Vatican had backed him.


Full cable:



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Reference ID






2003-01-30 13:42

2011-08-30 01:44


Embassy Harare

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.












E.O. 12958: N/A








1. (SBU) The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Bulawayo recently

lambasted the Mugabe regime, even calling it fascist, and the

Methodist Bishop of Harare recently urged the High Court to

be courageous and resist corruption. Precious few church

leaders have been as outspoken, and clergy and commentators

have only recently tapped into the socially perceived need

for leadership and criticized church higher-ups for their

silence. A local USAID-supported NGO sponsored a recent

conference of church and civic leaders to inspire church

leaders to take a stand. Growing calls from ordinary clergy

and parishioners for an end to political violence are a

welcome development and likely will pressure church leaders

to play a more active role in the search for a resolution of

Zimbabwe’s political crisis. End Summary.


Growing Pressure from Clergy


2. (U) The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Bulawayo, Pius Ncube,

has long been an outspoken critic on the GOZ’s use of

violence and human rights abuses. In the opening remarks of

his November 6 address to church leaders in Durban,

Archbishop Ncube, accused the GOZ of being fascist. He went

on to detail a litany of violence and injustice perpetrated

on the people of Zimbabwe by the Mugabe regime in the past 3

years. By his own count, 160 people had already died of

starvation in Matabeleland. He appealed to the audience to

lobby, wherever possible, the Mugabe regime to change.


3. (U) In November 2002, clergy from the Anglican,

Evangelical Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist, and

Church of Christ in Matabeleland issued a statement in full

support of Archbishop Ncube in which they “condemn(ed) in the

strongest terms the actions of Mugabe and his government in

hijacking food supplies and distributing them in a partisan

way” and said they “hear(d) the cries of suffering, the

harassed and starving people of our country for help”.


4. (U) In December 2002 churches in Manicaland issued a

statement in support of Archbishop Ncube and the Matabeleand

clergy, complaining of an “ongoing government-controlled

campaign of intimidation, fear and violence”. Further

criticizing the GOZ they said, “the situation we now face is

extremely serious as famine stalks our land… the President

and government are responsible for this situation… In the

face of evil, the rhetoric of self-justification continues to

resound from the corridors of power.” The clergy accused the

GOZ of denying reality and resorting to lies.


5. (U) On January 13 at the opening of the High Court in

Harare Bishop Cephas Mukandi, the head of the Methodist

Church in Zimbabwe implored High Court judges to shun

selective justice and resist being corrupted–both of which

erode confidence in the judicial system. He went on to say

that cowards could not rebuild Zimbabwe; the task requires

persons of courage with a genuine love and concern for the

welfare of others. He said administrators of justice should

let their service to Zimbabweans be based on the knowledge

that everyone is created in the image of God and should be

treated fairly–implying that some defendants had not been.


GOZ Denounces Ncube


6. (SBU) The GOZ has repeatedly urged churches to keep out of

politics, unless it was supportive of the GOZ. Information

Minister Jonathan Moyo denounced Ncube as a “mad bishop”, and

called for his resignation. According to the former Director

of the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) in

Zimbabwe, Michael Auret, the GOZ approached the Vatican to

request Ncube’s retirement, and Ncube himself reported to the

Ambassador he had received death threats. But according to

University of Zimbabwe political scientist John Makumbe,

Ncube represents an invincible constituency, the church, and

the Vatican has backed Ncube.


GOZ Apologists at the Pulpit


7. (SBU) Precious few church leaders have taken a stand, and

at least one is an outspoken GOZ apologist. The Anglican

Bishop of Harare, Nolbert Kunonga, commented in January 2002

that President Mugabe was more Christian than himself. In

October 2002 Kunonga was denied a court order to ban 19 of

his own church wardens from the Anglican cathedral in

downtown Harare for disrupting his pro-government sermons

with impromptu hymn-singing. Kunonga was elected bishop in

2001 after allegedly using ruling party influence to secure

his nomination; he was subsequently accused of firing priests

who opposed his nomination. The Catholic Archbishop of

Harare, Patrick Chakaipa, a long-time friend of Mugabe, tried

unsuccessfully in 1997 to suppress a CCJP report on

atrocities committed by the GOZ in Matabeleland in the 1980s.

The Catholic Bishop of Mutare, Alexio Muchabaiwa, refused to

denounce the expulsion by war veterans and the CIO last year

of a Catholic Priest from his diocese, Father Patrick Kelly.

Johane Masowe, who leads his own apostolic sect, has stated

publicly his support for the ruling party. Several other

apostolic church leaders have taken pro-GOZ positions and

received GOZ favors in turn.


8. (U) In a December 2002 statement entitled “That There May

be Peace and Prosperity,” the Zimbabwe Council of Churches

(ZCC), the umbrella organization of mainline Protestant

churches, called upon newly-resettled farmers to “make the

best possible use of the land entrusted to them”. Clergy and

commentators subsequently blasted the statement in the

independent press for appeasing the GOZ and sanctioning the

land invasions which have left hundreds of thousands of farm

workers destitute. Rev. Graham Shaw of Bulawayo said the

statement was carefully crafted, and politically correct, but

betrayed Zimbabwean victims of oppression, and ignored

monstrous injustices and the desperate urgency of half the

population facing starvation.


Consensus for Peace and Action


9. (SBU) On December 13 – 14 the Crisis in Zimbabwe

Coalition, a USAID grantee, sponsored a Peace Conference in

Bulawayo to develop a unified action plan for political

change in Zimbabwe for churches and civil society groups.

Four hundred seventeen people attended the conference

including eight bishops from the Catholic, Anglican, Brethren

in Christ and Evangelical churches, 70 pastors, and 50 civil

society organization delegates.


10. (U) According to Brian Kagoro, Crisis in Zimbabwe

coordinator, the major successes of the conference were

bringing together all of the major churches in the country

with civil society groups, developing a common position on

governance and rule of law, and agreeing to advocate publicly

for an immediate cessation of violence and intolerance in



11. (SBU) Kagoro said discussions focused on the modalities

of changing government in Zimbabwe, and on national healing

in the wake of state-sponsored violence and impunity. While

there was agreement that change was necessary, the

participants disagreed on whether to forgive perpetrators of

official violence, and in the context of the HIV pandemic

whether to approve of abstinence. Kagoro admitted the

conference was too short to address the 5 broad areas

covered: 1. governance and human rights, 2. regional

advocacy, 3. agrarian reform and food security, 4. truth,

justice and reconciliation, and 5. the HIV pandemic.


12. (U) The Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition circulated a draft

National Peace Accord to be signed by participating church

and civic groups in the coming days setting out a code of

conduct for government, and a process to mitigate violence.


Repeated Calls for Leadership


13. (U) Commentators in the independent media have lamented

the relative silence of most church higher-ups against the

brutality of the Mugabe regime. Noting the example set by

Archbishop Desmond Tutu in South Africa, on January 15 Daily

News Columnist Tanonoka Whande wrote, “the silence of our

churches is as painful and intolerable as it is baffling…

Some of us are hurting. We are hurting for a few words of

spiritual encouragement… Church leaders, please stand up.

Your flock is scattering. You are not only deacons, but

beacons.” On January 16, in the same paper Saul Gwakuba

applauded Archbishop Pius Ncube and Bishop Cephas Mukandi,

but he complained that other church leaders have been notably

silent. Recalling that biblical prophets stood for what was

right, rather than what was convenient, he implored

Zimbabwean church leaders to choose between justice and

tyranny, evil and righteousness.




14. (SBU) The GOZ has managed to silence most churches by

securing support of at least some, usually Harare-based

bishops in most churches, thereby inhibiting any united

critical church position. Nor has the GOZ and Mugabe

personally hesitated to blast away at any church critics who

stuck their heads up. The recent outspoken statements by

Ncube and Mukandi in particular are a departure from the

silence of church leaders during the crisis in Zimbabwe over

the past year. Noting peoples’ need for leadership against

violence and injustice, and increasing frustration and

confusion about apathy in their church hierarchies, clergy

and commentators have recently called on their church leaders

to take a stand. The USAID-supported Peace Conference of

church and civic leaders in Bulawayo aimed at opening a frank

dialogue between community and church leaders in hopes that

the latter would take a stronger role in advocating for

change. The resolution to become more outspoken in the

pulpit, coupled with the outspokenness of Ncube and Mukandi

are important indications of church leadership for change in

its infancy. Sparks of activism within what some have

described as an invincible constituency are encouraging, and

growing pressure from clergy around the country could prompt

senior church leaders to work more actively for an end to

political violence. End Comment.



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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.


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