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article imageZimbabwe President Robert Mugabe invites new Pope to visit

By Amanda Payne     Mar 21, 2013 in World
During all the pomp of the inaugural mass for Pope Francis, one face in the VIP section caused a stir. Robert Mugabe, President of Zimbabwe, has been banned from visiting any EU countries since 2002 but Pope Francis went so far as to shake his hand.
The 89-year-old President was banned from visiting Europe for human rights abuses in Zimbabwe. However, he and his wife Grace have visited the Vatican before as the tiny state does not belong to the European Union.He was welcomed at the airport in Rome by a priest who told him, "‘On behalf of Pope Francis, welcome to the Vatican, welcome to the Holy See."
Robert Mugabe is said to be a devout Catholic. New Zimbabwe reports that he took the opportunity to invite the new Pope to visit Africa, particularly Zimbabwe. Mugabe told reporters, "We would want him to visit Africa in the same way Pope John Paul did. We remember that memorable visit that he made and we wish the new Pope a long stay.We know that as a man of God, he will be praying for all of us, praying for the sinful world to repent."
Whilst Mugabe was in Rome with his wife, children and several government officials, there was turmoil back in Zimbabwe following a referendum on a new constitution, held on Sunday. A general election is planned for later this year. However, the voting for the referendum was marred by intimidation and violence, something that has become a hallmark of Mugabe's 30 years in power. Opposition politicians had their homes raided, supporters beaten up and some were even arrested.
One of those arrested is Beatrice Mtetwa, a prominent human rights lawyer. She is charged with obstructing justice as she tried to stop police raiding the offices of the opposition party, MDC (Movement for Democratic Change) which is led by Morgan Tsvangirai. Four other people were also arrested. Those arrested have also been charged with impersonating police officers. Beatrice Mtetwa was given a High court order for her release in the early hours of Monday morning. However, this was ignored by police. Ms Mtetwa then appeared in a magistrate's court in Zimbabwe's capital city of Harare on Wednesday March 20, where she was refused bail because, the magistrate said, she could interfere with police investigations and is a potential flight risk as she holds a Swaziland passport.
Lawyers both in Zimbabwe and around the world have expressed their outrage at the detention of Beatrice Mtetwa who will now remain in prison until a court appearance on April 3.
Amnesty International have demanded her immediate release. Their southern African director, Noel Kututwa, said, “It’s staggering that while Zimbabwe is in the process of adopting a new constitution which provides a stronger bill of human rights, lawyers in the course of their lawful duty are being so blatantly harassed and intimidated.Beatrice Mtetwa’s arrest and detention is an attack on the legal profession in Zimbabwe and in particular on lawyers who have fearlessly defended human rights defenders and political activists.”
David Coltart, who is the Minister of Education, Sport, Arts and Culture and a member of the MDC wrote on his Facebook page and Twitter account, "It is very difficult to adequately convey the depth of my disgust at the ongoing detention of Beatrice Mtetwa. That she was arrested in the first place was bad enough; that she should still be detained in the face of an order of the High Court is profoundly disturbing.I believe that it is no coincidence that the arrests which led ultimately to Beatrice Mtetwa's were effected so soon after the successful conclusion of the Referendum. I have no doubt that the arrests are the work of a group of deeply embittered hardliners who have done all they could to derail this process over the last few years and failed dismally."
It seems that while Robert Mugabe spent his time in Rome showing what a good Catholic he is and spoke of his belief in God, at home in Zimbabwe nothing has changed and violence, intimidation and illegal detention are still his methods for hanging on to power.
More about Zimbabwe, Robert mugabe, Beatrice Mtetwa, pope francis
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