by Timothy Eiphick
A PLOT to kill the Catholic bishops of Malawi was discussed at a crisis meeting of the ruling Malawi Congress Party. a group pressing for democratic reform in the central African country claimed this week.
The Malawian Alliance for Democracy. which campaigns for "democratic change by constitutional means, said it had transcripts of tapes recorded at the March meeting in the capital, Lilongwe, which offered conclusive proof that a plan had been hatched to murder the country's bishops.
The alleged plot followed stinging criticisms of the regime of Malawi's President for life, Hastings Kamuzu Banda, made by the bishops in a March pastoral letter read from church pulpits across the country. The bishops were detained and interrogated by police. And in April the Irish-born apostolic administrator of the Mzuzu diocese in central Malawi, Mgr John Roche, was ordered to leave the country.
Saddle Munthali of the Alliance for Democracy told the Catholic Herald that the purpose of the meeting convened by the Malawi Congress Party was to determine the fate of the bishops in the wake of their pastoral letter.
Mr Munthali said administrative secretary of the Malawi Congress Party, Wadson Deleza, could be heard on the tapes saying he wished the bishops would come to the entrance of the meeting hall so that they could be killed for betraying the Malawian people. "According to our tradition, once we have killed someone we don't go back to the President to announce what we have done. We just keep quiet," Mr Deleza is heard to have said.
"It would be better for us to be without these bishops in Malawi. They are a shame on the country... and they must he finished," Mr Deleu is alleged to have said.
The Malawian minister of state John Tembo, who opened the meeting, is also heard denouncing the bishops' actions as an insult to the President Banda.
Mr Munthali said the expulsion of Mgr Roche in April was consistent with a policy of ensuring that only Malawian Church leaders would be killed. Last month a second Irishman, missionary Fr Ton Leahy, was ordered to leave Malawi during the latest upsurge in tension between Church and state in the country.
The bishops were still being followed and their sermons monitored. Any one of them could meet with an "accident" on the road at any time, Mr Munthali said.
A spokesman for the Malawi High Commission in London denied all knowledge of the tapes and of any plot to kill the bishops.