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Politics/religion: strange bedfellows

By Tanonoka Joseph Whande

POLITICIANS prove their crookedness on the very first day they take office. They are always keen on dragging sceptical priests, bishops and deacons to their inaugurations. Of course

, the men of the cloth bring their Bibles along and politicians are fond of uttering “so help me, God” as they lay a paw on the Good Book and make promises without being asked.

But as soon as a politician says “so help me, God” all hell breaks loose. Wars are started and perpetrated by politicians who utter these words in front of a hopeful but gullible population.

During the commemoration of our liberation war heroes this year, President Robert Mugabe and his people did not use their controversial Anglican Bishop Nolbert Kunonga nor did they bring a bishop from Mugabe’s Catholic church. They, instead, chose one of their pathetic creations, a pastor Obadiah Msindo, clearly from the prevalent conveyor belts of the numerous “siya-so” congregations.

Msindo is one of those blind Zanu PF zealots who appears to be more overawed by Mugabe than with Christ. Msindo shocked people by referring to Mugabe as one who was anointed to rule Zimbabwe although he did not mention the previous stolen elections.

During his homily, which he delivered with quite exaggerated enthusiasm, the kid pastor appeared to stun even Mugabe himself by telling the people: “We pray against those who do not support land reform.”

Imagine the pastor to our state president kneeling in prayer, inviting and requesting from our loving God the demise of those he does not agree with!

As if that was not enough and in particular reference to the turncoat Harare acting mayor Sekesai Makwavarara, Msindo went on to declare that those who join Zanu PF are born again.

Does Msindo think so little of religion, God and Jesus that he has to use words like “born-again” and “anointed” when he talks about Zanu PF and its leaders? Who is responsible for the political violence and mistreatment of citizens? Talk about satanic verses!

But I am not very surprised, though, because this Msindo just echoes his master’s voice. And his master is Mugabe, not Jesus. Msindo’s misguided enthusiasm and immaturity border on blasphemy.

And as for the president, what can we expect from a man who approves such religious toddlers to officiate at functions that mean so much to us? Does Mugabe know that Heroes’ Day is a day reserved for our heroes and not for himself?

I remember Mugabe, the Catholic, calling several bishops, including an archbishop of his own church, “evil” because they had dared to criticise the president’s political behaviour.

In the last 24 years, our president has uttered “so help me God” five times during his inaugurations and we have human skeletons as mementos from every one of those utterances. I have images and nightmares of Entumbane emblazoned on my mind, so help me God. I shudder to think about the deaths, brutalities and torture during the era of extremely bitter and severe intolerance, the period conveniently referred to as “the dissident era”.

I quiver when I think of people being burned alive inside locked vehicles. Involuntary convulsions grip me when I visualise how disused mineshafts have been put to new use. I am overcome by sheer disgust at the induced starvation of citizens just because they hold different opinions from those of Mugabe and his ruling Zanu PF party and government.

But do politicians really mean to invoke the assistance and guidance of God at their inaugurations or is it just a meaningless ritual as unimportant to them as the temperature in the room? Are these men, these politicians, believers at all? If they are, why are people’s lives of so little importance to them?

What baffles me is that they too go to church with their families. They have pastors too and yet they go back to the office first thing Monday morning and look the other way as people they should be protecting get killed in their name.

The heart of the matter is that politicians must simply stop using the Bible to mark the beginning of their assignments to torture and abuse people. I do not put politicians down as believers because they associate God with their despicable acts.

I do not know where politicians get the courage to lie to God and to the multitudes of people who turn up to congratulate them and to sincerely wish them all the best? Politicians are so full of themselves that they think that kneeling before God portrays them as weaklings in people’s eyes. They want to be perceived as the all-conquering macho men and so, to them, God becomes a competitor.

In the case of our president, he really needs our prayers because he has been drifting away for some time. His vanity even prevented him from apologising to Christians after Tony Gara’s blasphemous utterance calling him the Son of God.

The president must apologise to the people for what happened in the Matabeleland and Midlands provinces. He should have apologised to the nation for people having been killed in his bid for re-election.

In all these apologies, the president had nothing to lose but everything to gain both on the spiritual and political side. Imagine if you will, Mugabe taking communion from Archbishop Pius Ncube! That photograph would indeed be worth a thousand words.

It’s still not too late even for those who have been carrying an assortment of burdens for 24 years. Confession, like admission of guilt and apology, is good; it is a spiritual car wash. Even the flesh benefits from it. So help us, God!

*Tanonoka Joseph Whande is a Harare-based writer.

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