Zimbabwean Prime Minister booed out of Southwark Cathedral

By agency reporter
June 23, 2009

The Zimbabwean Prime Minister, Morgan Tsvangirai was forced to abandon his speech at Southwark Anglican Cathedral in London this weekend, as expatriates from the southern African country jeered at his suggestion that they return to their homeland and help to rebuild their ailing nation - writes Matthew Davies.

The dean and chapter of Southwark Cathedral had extended the welcome to Tsvangirai because the Diocese of Southwark is closely linked to four Anglican dioceses in Zimbabwe.

"It is therefore a natural and appropriate venue for Mr Tsvangirai to use," said a press release from the Anglican Diocese of Southwark.

But Tsvangirai's repeated attempts to break through the shouts and chanting from more than 1,000 disgruntled Zimbabwean exiles, apparently sceptical that real reform has taken place in their homeland, were unsuccessful and he conceded and stepped down from the pulpit.

Tsvangirai's visit to London marked the final stage of a tour of Europe and the US during which he has met with several government leaders in an attempt to build relationships which may be helpful to the recovery of Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe has experienced an economic and socio-political crisis under the leadership of President Robert Mugabe. Anglicans in Zimbabwe's Diocese of Harare have faced ongoing harassment and violence from Mugabe's police force who have attempted to stop them from worshipping.

Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party continue to hold onto power despite being defeated by Tsvangirai and his opposition Movement for Democratic Change in the March 2008 elections.

During his speech at Southwark Cathedral, Tsvangirai attempted to offer assurances that Zimbabwe was on the mend following the creation of a power-sharing government which saw him sworn in as prime minister in February.

But his speech disintegrated when he urged Zimbabweans to return to their nation saying that their skills and money were needed to help in rebuilding.

On the final leg of his diplomatic tour 22 June 2009, Tsvangirai met with the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown who said that "Britain would be prepared to respond if it saw evidence of the Zimbabwean government breaking with its past," according to a BBC report.

"But we will continue to speak out for those who are intimidated and threatened and exploited and indeed against all censorship," Brown said. "We will continue to test the progress that is being made."

Meanwhile, young Zimbabwean Christians have said that the coalition government has failed to address widespread hunger and human rights violations in the country, according to an Ecumenical News International report.

"The sad reality remains that the expectations of the public remain largely unmet," the Students Christian Movement of Zimbabwe said in a report released on 17 June. "It is sad to note that little has been done to bring about economic sanity in the country and most people are still living below the poverty-line."


Matthew Davies is editor of Episcopal Life Online and international correspondent of Episcopal News Service (USA).

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