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Zimbabwe's Top Religious Leader Launches Mediation Effort - 2003-03-13

As the political and economic crisis in Zimbabwe deepens, a new mediation initiative was launched this week by South Africa's top religious leader. There is hope within Zimbabwe that the effort will help end Zimbabwe's political and humanitarian crisis.

The head of the Anglican Church in South Africa, Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane began his mediation with a long meeting with Zimbabwe's president, Robert Mugabe, on Wednesday. He met with members of Zimbabwe's opposition party, human rights activists and political analysts on Thursday.

Several other members of the Anglican Church in South Africa accompanied the archbishop.

Political analysts say this initiative has the blessing of South African President Thabo Mbeki, whose efforts to quietly resolve Zimbabwe's crisis have failed to produce any results.

Archbishop Ndungane has been in consultation with the Anglican Church hierarchy in Britain about the mediation.

As part of his effort, he is expected to try to resolve the political standoff between Britain and Zimbabwe, particularly with regard to human rights and the rule of law. These are the two concerns that the British government has raised consistently for three years.

Diplomatic sources say Archbishop Ndungane is well briefed on the scale of human rights violations in Zimbabwe. Several of his colleagues from the Anglican Church in South Africa attended a memorial service for victims of violence in Zimbabwe's second city, Bulawayo, two weeks ago.

This is the most important peacemaking effort that Archbishop Ndungane has undertaken since he succeeded South Africa's famous cleric, Archbishop Desmond Tutu seven years ago, and people close to him say he intends to do all in his power to help bring peace to Zimbabwe.