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Page last updated at 11:24 GMT, Friday, 12 December 2008

Mugabe is a 'modern-day Hitler'

President Robert Mugabe
Robert Mugabe said the West was plotting to use cholera to invade

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe should be seen as a "21st Century Hitler", a senior South African Anglican bishop has said.

Bishop of Pretoria Joe Seoka called on churches to pray for his removal, South African Press Association reports.

His comments came as the US ambassador to Zimbabwe warned that the country was turning into a "failed state".

On Thursday, Mr Mugabe said a deadly cholera outbreak had been stopped, as aid workers warned it was worsening.

He said Western powers were plotting to use cholera as an excuse to invade and overthrow him.

We need to commit ourselves to assist the refugees from Zimbabwe... remembering that the one we call our Lord and Saviour was a refugee in Egypt, fleeing the Mugabe of that period, King Herod
Bishop Joe Seoka

The World Health Organization says the outbreak has not been contained and the death toll has increased to 792 people, reports the AFP news agency.

The UK minister for Africa Lord Mark Malloch-Brown said he did not know which world Mr Mugabe was living in.

However, Mr Mugabe's spokesman George Charamba said the president's comments had been "sarcasm".

The WHO has warned that the total number of cases could reach 60,000 unless the epidemic was stopped.

US ambassador James McGee blamed the outbreak on Zimbabwe's political crisis and the failed economic policies of its government.

He told reporters in Washington that hospitals in Harare remained closed, there was no rubbish collection and people were drinking from sewers.

President Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF party and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) have been deadlocked in power-sharing negotiations for several months.

"The situation is truly grim. One man and his cronies - Robert Mugabe - are holding this country hostage," Mr McGee said, AP news agency reports.

Bishop Seoka said that Mr Mugabe was a "person seemingly without conscience or remorse, and a murderer".

 Zimbabwean family bury their relative Betty Bvute who died of cholera near Harare on 8 December 2008
Cholera has spread because of Zimbabwe's failing health system

"I believe it is now an opportune moment for all the church leaders to follow the retired Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, to call on God to cause the removal Mugabe from the office of the President of Zimbabwe," he said, calling for the prayers to be held next Tuesday.

"The church in South Africa has done this before with the apartheid regime and there is no doubt that God will hear our prayers even today."

Several African and Western leaders have recently said it was time for Mr Mugabe to step down.

Kenya's Prime Minister Raila Odinga said African countries should force him from power.

But the African Union has rejected such calls, saying a solution to Zimbabwe's problems must come from the power-sharing talks.

Bishop Seoka asked South Africans to show patience to Zimbabweans who have fled their homeland.

An estimated three million Zimbabweans are living in South Africa, and thousands cross over the border illegally every day.

More recently, hundreds have sought medical treatment because Zimbabwe's health service and water supply infrastructure have virtually collapsed.

In May, more than 60 people died when armed groups in Johannesburg and other cities attacked foreigners, or those believed to be Mozambican or Zimbabwean.

"We need to commit ourselves to assist the refugees from Zimbabwe in our midst, remembering that the one we call our Lord and Saviour was a refugee in Egypt, fleeing the Mugabe of that period, King Herod," the bishop said.

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