By Tanonoka Joseph Whande
“WE will damn you along with Tony Blair and George Bush.” President Robert Mugabe to His Eminence Archbishop Pius Ncube of the Bulawayo Diocese on August 21.
P>This eloquent plea for prayer from Mugabe was made during the installation of the new archbishop for the Archdiocese of Harare. Only Mugabe could use such an occasion to threaten the gathered Christians and berate imagined enemies.
Although Archbishop Robert Ndlovu was finally installed as the new archbishop of Harare, the ruling Zanu PF party’s politicians and tribalists had been busy trying to have the Vatican reverse its choice and appoint another man to lead the capital. Their paranoia stems from the possibility that Ndlovu, from the Ndebele tribe, might turn out to be an anti-government cleric like another Ndebele, Pius Ncube of the Bulawayo Diocese.
It does not need too much imagination to see that two Ndebeles heading two prominent dioceses in Zimbabwe is not what Mugabe and his apologists would have preferred.
A few weeks ago, Mugabe was the centre of attraction at the Heroes Day commemoration, totally eclipsing the heroes whose day it was. On August 21, he once again installed himself as the star attraction at someone else’s party.
His predictable and sleepy speech about Blair and Bush was repeated. The speech, a very unfitting one for such an occasion, was a warning to both Archbishop Ndlovu and fellow clergymen. It was clearly intended to divide these two because Mugabe desperately wants Ndlovu in his corner.
Mugabe is aware of how difficult it may be to fight these two clerics should they team up together and yet it is not a tribal thing at all.
We are hopeful that Ndlovu will protect his flock just as much as Ncube is doing. It is our hope that the new archbishop will not accept being abused in the same way as the very accommodating late Archbishop of Harare, Patrick Chakaipa. It would be a shame if Ncube were left to fight these battles all by himself.
The heart of the matter is that we need more voices against Mugabe. Speeches blaming Blair will not divert attention from the cruelty of Mugabe’s leadership. We know who messed up this country.
Let Britons worry about Blair; Mugabe should worry about his own presidency and about the people he purports to lead. Mugabe’s government goes to work every day thinking of new ways of oppressing and disenfranchising the people of Zimbabwe.
There is no denying that we have a problem with our president. We expect the new Harare archbishop to lead us in regaining our imperatives. There is no need for diplomacy.
Ndlovu should make it clear to the politicians right away that people come first and that this is not negotiable. This is the stuff that saints are made of.
Anything less is a betrayal of the people the archbishop has come to serve.
During his speech, Mugabe talked against Zimbabweans talking to “foreign authorities” about the situation in Zimbabwe and urged those with grievances to come sit down and talk. Someone ought to remind the old man that for years now opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has been trying to do just that.
I noted with dismay that Mugabe denounced Ndlovu’s colleague and fellow servant-in-service to Christ in the presence of Ndlovu himself. We do not expect to see Ndlovu falling into the temptation that he can get along with Mugabe and Zanu PF. He should remain focused. If he is not willing to assist the suffering masses, he should not hinder their attempts to free themselves.
Mugabe should be serious and stop concerning himself with choosing and picking friends for the citizens of this country.
Lately, our president has been preoccupied with threatening us and shaving away any remnants of freedom Zimbabweans still have. We do not even have the freedom to choose our own friends. It seems freedom in Zimbabwe is only for those who can afford it.
The things that are being said about Zimbabwe are extremely serious and true. It is unfortunate, however, that we now find ourselves in a situation that dictates that between the President and Archbishop Ncube someone is not telling the truth. But we know who it is.
As for me, there never was a time and there never shall be a time when I will stand by a politician at the expense of my priest or pastor.
Archbishop Ndlovu, please note that as my shepherd I will follow you because I have faith in you and can bank on your protection. As our shepherds, you and Ncube are much too important to be compared to any president or politician.
Your Eminence, welcome to the spotlight and to the crusade.
*Tanonoka Joseph Whande is a Zimbabwean writer.