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Last Updated: Sunday, 27 March, 2005, 16:07 GMT 17:07 UK
Zimbabwe cleric urges 'uprising'
Supporters of the Movement for Democratic Change party rally in Harare
Rallies by Zanu-PF and opposition parties have largely been peaceful
A senior Church leader in Zimbabwe has openly called for a peaceful uprising against President Robert Mugabe.

Catholic Archbishop Pius Ncube told the Johannesburg-based Sunday Independent newspaper he hoped the people would oust Mr Mugabe after Thursday's poll.

He said the parliamentary ballot had already been fixed to ensure the ruling Zanu-PF party won, and urged a "non-violent, popular mass uprising".

Zanu-PF, which denies past vote-rigging claims, has promised fair elections.

But international human rights groups have already raised concerns about a climate of fear and intimidation in the run-up to the vote.

'Too soft'

Archbishop Ncube, of Zimbabwe's second city Bulawayo, was outspoken in his criticism of Mr Mugabe.

Pius Ncube takes part in a Good Friday procession
People should pluck up just a bit of courage and stand up against him and chase him away
Archbishop Pius Ncube

"I hope that people get so disillusioned that they really organise against the government and kick him out by a non-violent, popular, mass uprising," he told the paper.

"Because as it is, people have been too soft with this government.

"So people should pluck up just a bit of courage and stand up against him and chase him away."

Archbishop Ncube insisted he was not advocating violence but simply backing a peaceful uprising like that in Ukraine last year.

He said the opposition needed to produce "a strong leadership" if Mr Mugabe, who has led Zimbabwe since 1980, was to be challenged.

'Vote for food'

A "kind of tacit violence" had characterised the run-up to this year's election, Archbishop Ncube told the Associated Press news agency, although most political rallies have been peaceful.

He also accused the government of denying much-needed food aid to rural supporters of the opposition party Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai told a rally in the capital, Harare, on Sunday that the country needed "a new vision, a new Zimbabwe that is able to respond to the crisis that we find ourselves in".

"Go and vote for food, go and vote for jobs, go and vote for MDC - and go and vote for your future," AP quotes him as saying.

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