The Zimbabwe government, which has been criticized by the international community in recent weeks for its attempts to silence and intimidate judges and journalists, has now begun targeting clergy.

Paul Andrianotos, a white Presbyterian church minister from South Africa based in the southern Zimbabwean city of Bulawayo, 288 miles southwest of Harare, departed for the United Kingdom on Sunday, March 11, after the government refused to renew his work permit.

Andrianotos, 44, appears to have angered the government of President Robert Mugabe by criticizing state-sponsored violence. Last year Andrianotos spoke out at the funeral of a white farmer, Martin Olds, shot dead in Nyamandlovhu, south of Harare last April.

Last week, on March 9, the clergyman renewed his criticism of the government, this time following the murder of Olds' mother, 72-year-old Gloria Olds, who was gunned down at her Silver Streams Farm, also in Nyamandlovhu, early this month. Mrs Olds is the latest casualty of those invading white-owned farms. The Supreme Court has ruled that the takeovers are illegal, but the government, which has been accused of encouraging the farm invasions, seems determined to ignore the ruling.

At Olds' funeral on March 9 in Bulawayo, Andrianotos said: "For those responsible for the murders of Gloria and Martin Olds, I pray that they be cursed. For officials and cabinet ministers who ignore and act against just laws, I pray for your curse. For the leaders of this country who are not honest, sincere and have no compassion for the people, I pray that they be removed or cursed."

The March 9 service was attended by 250 members of the white farming community, including Martin Olds' younger son David and his family, and by members, both black and white, of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change. (MDC), which Martin Olds supported.

Opposition officials said the government was intensifying its repression in the surrounding Matabeleland, an area where the MDC has strong support.

Andrianotos said: "I say to all farmers here, they may take away your land, but they can never take away the love your family has for you, love that is more important than any land."

He urged the farmers to "keep loving each other despite the hatred around you."

Olds was shot 15 times by gunmen who then fled in her car. The car was later recovered, but the murderers are still at large.

"It is a sad day when men need semi-automatic weapons to murder a 72-year-old woman," said Andrianotos. "They are not men, they are boys. They are not even boys. They are cowards."

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He also criticized police for their failure to take action immediately after the murder. Olds' body was taken to Nyamandlovhu police station by her friends.

"The police said they could not come to the scene because they had no transport," Andrianotos said. "No police roadblocks were set up."

Investigators have found that Olds tried to crawl to her truck after being shot. Two of the attackers followed her, shot her three dogs, and then riddled her body with bullets.

Her son, Martin died last April when more than 70 "war veterans" invading farms in the area surrounded his farmhouse and engaged in a gun battle which is believed to have lasted for five hours.

Andrianotos, who is married to a Zimbabwean teacher, Joy-Anne, said he was sad to leave Zimbabwe after seven years here. "It's sad that my work permit has not been renewed. I would have wanted to remain in Zimbabwe," he told the Daily News.

Concerted efforts to renew his permit had failed and he had been ordered to leave, he said. He is to take up a post with the United Reformed Church at Barking, Essex, in the U.K.

"Since I conducted Martin Olds' funeral last year, I have been constantly visited by members of the Central Intelligence Organization [CIO] who have been quizzing me on statements I made during the funeral proceedings," he told the Daily News. "After delivering that sermon, I knew deep down that my days were numbered in Zimbabwe. But I had to speak out. I am not politically involved, but I can see what is happening," he said. "I was so angry."

The CIO phoned him to ask him for details of what was to take place at Gloria Olds' funeral and why the ceremony was being conducted at his church.

Andrianotos' departure follows reports that Catholic Archbishop of Bulawayo, Pius Ncube—accused by President Mugabe of preaching against the president's Zanu PF party—slipped out of the country three months ago after receiving death threats.

Archbishop Ncube is a vocal critic of President Mugabe's government. Contacted by ENI for comment, the archbishop's secretary declined to say where he was.

Related Elsewhere

See today's related story, "Zimbabwe Church Officials Tell Mugabe to Respect Judiciary and Rule of Law | Catholics, Baptists, and others criticize presidential pressure on Supreme Court."

Other media coverage of Andrianatos' departure includes:

Priest leaves Zimbabwe — BBC (Mar. 12, 2001)

Missionary Forced To Leave Zimbabwe | Authorities revoke work permit of Presbyterian missionary who accused the government being involved in killings — Associated Press (Mar. 11, 2001)

Priest Ordered to Leave Zimbabwe | Paul Andrianatos had presided over funerals of parishioners killed in farm land dispute — Zimbabwe Standard, Harare (Mar. 11, 2001)

Zim sends SA priest packing | — The Independent, Johannesburg (Mar. 11, 2001)

Priest curses Mugabe at farmer's funeralThe Guardian, London (Mar. 10, 2001)