Harare – He’s not as well-known as protest pastor Evan Mawarire. But this Zimbabwe church leader’s brave plea to President Robert Mugabeto stop terrorising protesters or face impeachment may attract the attention of the authorities.
Already questioned by police and arrested at least once during the past few months, Bishop Ancelimo Magaya is one of five Zimbabwe church men who this weekend penned an open letter to the 92-year-old Mugabe asking him to “stop unleashing terror on citizens for expressing genuine grievances.”
Mugabe’s government has attempted to stamp out a growing wave of on-and now off-line protests that began in April with frustrated social media posts by #ThisFlag pastor Mawarire. He is now in exile.
But activists and now church leaders have taken up Mawarire’s baton, finding ways round a police ban on demonstrations in central Harare and most recently, an attempt to limit the use of the national flag as a symbol of opposition to Mugabe.
Magaya (not to be confused with the more famous Zimbabwe “prophet” Walter Magaya) and the heads of four other smaller Christian groups including the Zimbabwe Christian Alliance and the Zimbabwe Pastors’ Fellowship said they were “disturbed by the increasingly restive populace and the brutal show of force by state machinery.”
They said they wanted Mugabe to admit the country was heading for “total collapse” and be willing to engage in talks. “If you fail to address these issues by September 28, we will be forced to exercise our democratic right to petition parliament to impeach you,” their statement reads.
Magaya, who heads the Divine Destiny Network and has spoken out against Mugabe’s “heartlessness” before, was reportedly arrested last month as he tried to take part in an anti-government demonstration in Harare.
In January he was questioned by police over his attempts to make churches and opposition parties speak with one voice on injustice.
The statement does not have the backing of bigger Christian groups in Zimbabwe like the Apostolic sects and the prosperity gospel churches of popular prophets like Emmanuel Makandiwa.
Commenting on the statement on website NewZimbabwe.com, one reader described Magaya and his colleagues as “useless clowns”.
Zimbabwe’s police force shows no sign of toning down its often-harsh clampdown on protesters despite an outcry over recently-circulated pictures of the lacerated buttocks of two female protesters who were allegedly beaten by police.
National police chief Augustine Chihuri was quoted by the privately-owned Newsday on Monday as saying that criminals would never “thank the police for thwarting their criminal intents”.
“It would be analogous to a rat thanking the cat for patrolling its home,” Chihuri said.