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Fr Mukonori on Mugabe departure

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It could have been easier for President Robert Mugabe to cede power “10 or 15” years ago because he was now in a quandary and unsure of his next move should he step down, a senior clergyman with strong ties with the veteran leader allegedly said.

Father Fidelis Mukonori is alleged to have told United States officials in Harare four years ago that it was time for President Mugabe to step down.

This is contained in confidential cables from the US embassy to Washington, leaked by whistleblower website WikiLeaks last week.

But Mukonori last night denied ever meeting staff from the US embassy in Harare saying: “It sounds like a mirage to me. I do not know anything like that.”

The clergyman said he had only met with US embassy officials informally at public official gatherings.

The cable, dispatched to Washington on August 3 2007, read: “Fidelis believes it is time (or past time) for (President) Mugabe to go, but told us an exit would have been easier 10 or 15 years ago.
“Now (President) Mugabe is concerned about how he will spend the last years of his life should he leave politics and government.”

The cable said US embassy officials did not know whether President Mugabe asks for advice from Father Mukonori or not.

“. . . Our impression is that they have discussions, as old friends,” read the cable.

The cable said Father Mukonori kept his political views to himself, although he believed Zimbabwe needed new leadership.

“He travels throughout the country and is no doubt aware of the economic situation,” said the cable.

“He intimated to us that he agreed with the substance of the (Catholc) Bishops’ pastoral letter in April criticising the government, but thought the tone could have been less accusatory and more subtle.”

The cable said the clergyman was on the board of St George’s College. When the government attempted to cap school fees for private institutions, he was not afraid to criticise and challenge the Ministry of Education.

“Fidelis regards himself as a conciliator and bridge builder. He would like to see better relations between the US and Zimbabwe. We have explained US policy to him, including the prospect of US assistance, and he has said he would communicate this to (President) Mugabe,” read the cable.

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