Zimbabwe activists blocked as Lutherans and African Union protest

By staff writers
March 18, 2007

A number of leading Zimbabwean opposition figures have been prevented from going abroad and one of them has been attacked at the airport, according to a BBC report.

Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) MP and spokesperson Nelson Chamisa said he was beaten as he tried to leave the country. The government has denied this.

“There is no security, there is no protection, all of us are at risk”, he declared to reporters.

Earlier two women activists were stopped as they tried to leave to get treatment for injuries sustained in police custody, their lawyer said. Arthur Mutambara was also re-arrested at the airport.

Meanwhile African Union has urged the Harare government to respect human rights in the country and the leader of the Lutheran World Federation is the latest church figure to add his voice to the call for change and an end to repression.

Indeed a letter from the LWF’s Zimbabwean head may have played a role in influencing the AU to speak out.

In a statement, the pan-African body called for a "constructive dialogue" to resolve Zimbabwe's deepening crisis. South Africa is also under pressure for a bolder response.

The general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation, the Rev Dr Ishmael Noko, has strongly condemned the Zimbabwean government’s “unprecedented brutality, oppression and attacks upon its own people, in their mounting calls for political change”.

The LWF has a member church in Zimbabwe, the 150,000-member Evangelical Lutheran Church in Zimbabwe. It also supports humanitarian and development co-operation there as in many other countries.

In a letter to African Union (AU) chairperson, Ghanaian President John Kufuor, the LWF general secretary pointed out that the recent attacks on participants in peaceful demonstrations and expressions of resistance "show that the government of Zimbabwe is prepared to use the instruments of State power against its own people in complete disregard for their human rights and for the government’s own constitutional responsibilities."

"Mr President, I appeal to you to do all in your power to exert influence upon the government of Zimbabwe to change its self-destructive course, to cease its attacks upon its own people, to correct its failed economic policies, and to reverse its aggressive isolationism," wrote Noko, himself Zimbabwean.

The LWF general secretary expressed his earnest hope and prayer that "the community of African nations can mobilize to help save Zimbabwe, to restore hope to its people, to revive Zimbabwe as the model and inspiration it once was, and to restore faith in African leadership in the world."

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