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Bishops vie for Zim Catholic leadership

Itai Dzamara

CATHOLIC Bishops Patrick Mutume and Michael Basera of the Mutare and Masvingo dioceses respectively are the front-runners in the search for a successor to the late head of t

he church in Zimbabwe, Archbishop Patrick Chakaipa.

Investigations last week revealed that discussions were under way at the Vatican to find Chakaipa’s successor.

Chakaipa died in April this year after a long battle with a cardiac problem.

Mutume is understood to be in the running on the strength of his role in efforts to revive dialogue between President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

Basera, who has openly criticised Mugabe’s wayward leadership, is also involved in initiatives to revive political dialogue. Basera reports to the Vatican on progress on the Zimbabwean crisis.

As the current president of the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Basera recently held a meeting with Mugabe at the instigation of the Vatican to persuade the beleaguered Zanu PF leader to negotiate a political settlement with the opposition.

“The issue (of Chakaipa’s successor) is now at an advanced stage after consultations here (in Zimbabwe) as well as in the Vatican,” said a highly placed source. “Four names initially emerged, those of bishops Mutume, Basera and Archbishop Pius Ncube as well as Jesuits’ leader in Zimbawe, Father Fidelis Mukonori. However, after deliberations, Mukonori and Ncube were deemed to be already performing impressively in vital capacities, leaving Basera and Mutume in the running for the archbishop’s position.”

The source said it was agreed that Ncube, considered a beacon in the fight for justice in Zimbabwe, had to remain in his present post. Ncube was urged to continue his fight for justice and peace in various capacities in Africa.

Ncube is the chairman of Soli-darity Peace Trust, a joint Zimba-bwean/South African human ri-ghts group that recently released a shocking report on the government’s controversial national youth training service.

Fr Mukonori is also a major player in human rights issues and reports to the Vatican on various areas of conflict in Africa. He played a major mediating role during Zimbabwe’s liberation war and is in the thick of manoeuvres to solve Zimbabwe’s political impasse.

Pope John Paul’s representative in Zimbabwe, Edward Joseph Adams, declined to shed light on the issue of Chakaipa’s successor, saying the Pontiff had the final say.

“It takes place when all the steps required by church law for a bishop’s appointment are completed. The definitive judgement, however, rests with His Holiness the Pope,” said Adams.

Efforts to obtain comment from Mukonori, Ncube, Mutume and Basera were unsuccessful as they all insisted church procedures would be followed and that, in any case, only the pope’s representative could speak with authority on the issue.

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