HARARE, Zimbabwe – Archbishop Pius Ncube of Bulawayo urged Zimbabweans to continue their protests against government oppression and said he was willing to risk his life by leading them.
“We must be ready to stand, even in front of blazing guns,” Archbishop Ncube said at a March 22 news conference in the capital, Harare.
“I am ready to stand in front,” he told the news conference, organized by the Zimbabwe Christian Alliance.
Noting that “starvation stalks our land,” Archbishop Ncube said people should fill the streets and demand that President Robert Mugabe “steps down now.”
Inflation in Zimbabwe is more than 1,700 percent and there are severe shortages of food, fuel and medicine. Unemployment is close to 80 percent.
“The biggest problem is that Zimbabweans are cowards, myself included,” the archbishop said. He was quoted by Reuters, the British news agency.
“We must get off our comfortable seats and suffer with the people,” he said.
At least one activist has been shot dead by police and hundreds have been arrested at recent anti-government protests.
Many of those arrested, including opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, said they were tortured in jail.
“The danger of escalating violence is a very deep concern,” Archbishop Ncube said in a March 20 statement he issued as chairman of the South African-based Solidarity Peace Trust.
He urged the government “to end the impunity of its uniformed forces immediately and to prosecute those who violate the rights of ordinary citizens.”
Noting that “torture is never justified,” Archbishop Ncube’s statement said “the international prohibition on torture is absolute, and those responsible for acts of torture should be brought to justice by the authorities in Zimbabwe or in the international community.”
Peaceful gatherings should be allowed and “the government should refrain from inciting its supporters to violence, as should all citizens of Zimbabwe,” it said.