The Archbishop of Canterbury met President Robert Mugabe for tea, scones and jam on Monday in a bid to persuade the Zimbabwean president to curb the activities of his renegade bishop.
Dr Rowan Williams said the meeting – the first between a British dignitary and Mr Mugabe in 10 years – had been “candid and serious”.
He said the 87-year-old liberation leader had promised to speak to Nolbert Kunonga, the former Bishop of Harare who split from the Anglican church over the ordination of gay clergy and has since seized control of 40 per cent of its property.
Dr Williams, who was accompanied to Harare’s State House by Zimbabwe’s Anglican bishops, said they presented the president of a dossier of abuses, which have included the beating and tear-gassing of worshippers by Mr Mugabe’s police force, and the takeover of mission schools, hospitals and orphanages.
“We have asked him that he use his powers as head of state to guarantee the security of those of his citizens who worship with the Anglican church and put an end to unacceptable and illegal behaviour,” he said.
“We are proud of our church here and our people who have suffered so much but continue to serve with great enormous energy, with love and with hope.”
He said President Mugabe claimed he was not aware of “the scale of intimidation” perpetrated by “illicit factions and at the hands of police”.
“He expressed his concern at the damage the division was doing to communities generally in Zimbabwe and his willingness to speak to Dr Kunonga to raise the concerns that we had flagged up,” he said.
He conceded that Mr Mugabe had been disingenuous in the past about his knowledge of human rights abuses.
“No president is ever going to say, ‘I don’t care about people being beaten up’,” he said.