Where is the Church in all this; Does the church understand its role in Zimbabwean Politics?

By Lennon Manyengawana

My basic knowledge of politics and political systems points me to the concept of balance of power. In this concept, political systems have the incumbent government and opposition parties. These two are in constant conflict of ideologies and policies and usually struggle to find a meeting point as many a times they negotiate in bad faith as they think that the other party is malicious in its conduct. Dialectical Materialism is a theory that states that the contradiction of opposites brings out the most refined ideas; thesis against antithesis brings out the synthesis. Therefore the contradiction is necessary to bring about the balance but there is need for a common denominator that will bring the two parties together whilst avoiding a blood bath hence the advent of the third force in a political system, Civic Society.

Civil society is composed of non political actors who carry influence and authority. Their opinions are of value to political actors as they have the superpower of speaking with impunity and immunity hence their voices are more audible to the government and political actors. Usually the most prominent voices that we get, comes from human rights organisations, nongovernmental organisations and sometimes embassies but in Zimbabwe, such organisations have been viewed with suspicions as allegations of regime change agenda were levelled against them by Zanu Pf which through Kazembe Kazembe threatened to deregister some of them if they continued to meddle in politics. Hence the third force has been stripped off of its power but one arm of the third force is still there, with its full powers yet silent about the crisis bedevilling the country.

The Church Possesses Influence

Basic political knowledge of this country will point you to the role of the church in Zimbabwean politics. The church possesses influence and authority and we cannot argue about that hence they are a very important element of the state. Most of the political leaders of this country were educated through missionary schools hence they owe an ear to the church as shown by the heavy influence of the Roman Catholic Church during the Mugabe era. At Independence, Bishop Chakaipa was there gracing the ceremony, the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace has also been vocal lately about the political injustices in the country. Even if you are to go through the bible you would find out about the roles of prophets to the Kings which was checks and balances and also being a voice of the voiceless.

It’s not only the Catholic Church but we have also had E Guti, founder of ZAOGA speaking to the people about respecting the political leadership that is there, a message that was translated as supporting Zanu Pf. We have also had PHD Ministries founder, Walter Magaya also flying close to the political radar of the government when he purchased Grace Mugabe’s Thesis for an exorbitant amount. Every president we have had in Zimbabwe occasionally visits the Joanne Masowe conferences as a tradition and likewise they enjoy support from the church and its congregants. Recently His Excellency E.D Mnangagwa visited the ZCC Church at Mutendi’s farm in Gutu for a service and the two enjoy a cordial or rather functional relationship. The opposition leader of the MDC A, Nelson Chamisa is also a pastor at the AFM Church in Zimbabwe therefore it is beyond any reasonable doubt that the church indeed has influence in the political system of this country.

The Silence is worrying

The worrying thing is the silence of the Church over the events of 14-16 January 2019, where the country witnessed violent uprising followed by brutal clampdowns by the security forces. Massive property losses were recorded, people were murdered in cold blood by live ammo and people were subjected to indiscriminate bashing by the security forces in the high density suburbs to the extent that the international community could not ignore the situation but our churches are silent about it.

It is worrying when the custodians of the moral fibre of the country decide to be silent when their supposed congregants suffer at the hands of the government. We have had people like Desmond Tutu who got a Noble Peace price for standing up for human rights though he is a clergyman. We have also had M. Ghandi   who was driven by religion to stand against human rights violations in India, but here in Zimbabwe, our Clergymen are in perfect hiding during the time of need.

They are waiting for a reconciliation commission

It seems our churches work best when incentivised. You will only hear them being vocal when the government starts proposing the creation of a reconciliation commission over the violence issues two months after it has happened as the commissions come with a fat pay cheque, all paid hotel accommodation, travel allowances and fancy 4×4 vehicles. For some churches , there are waiting for all this to be over so that they can stand in front of the people and tell them that they saw it coming a long time back so that they can exhibit their prophetic powers.

Is it that the church is not aware that the people are suffering because of the “cushioning” allowances that they are getting from the hard earned money of the suffering povo in the name of tithes and seeding such that they are detached from the pain of the people or are they like everyone else, scared to stand up for the truth? Are they saying that the people have to deal with this alone and after they are done they can come back to the church and receive divine healing for gunshot wounds?

Where are the church leaders?

We are at a time that the government is calling for dialogue and it is the role of the church to be a mediator as the two polar opposite ideologies of the government and the opposition cannot be reconciled without proper mediation as they will continue to negotiate in bad faith as the goal is always to outwit the other, Game Theory. Sadly the voice of the Churches is not anywhere within the proximities of this very crucial discussion. Where is Father Fidelis Mukonori? I remember him as the guy who talked Mugabe into stepping down, where is he when the nation is in dire need of such help? Where is Guti? Where is Mutendi? Where is Makandiwa? Where is Magaya?