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Candid Comment

Is God Zanu PF or MDC?

WHAT is happening in the Anglican Church in Zimbabwe is not only disturbing but should also be very embarrassing to true believers. What started off as a minor tiff between head of the Harare

diocese former Bishop Nolbert Kunonga and the province of Central Africa ostensibly over homosexuality has mutated and ramified way out of control, threatening to tear asunder the church and shake to the core people’s faith in the Christian religion.

The struggle for power pitting newly re-ordained retired Bishop Sebastian Bakare and Kunonga gives the church a bad name. It doesn’t really matter who is right or who is wrong. The public violence and the uncouth verbal exchanges in the media are far from edifying spiritually. Are these fights in the service of God and the spiritual needs of the flock or is it all now about earthly power and dominion? For we now have the shameful spectacle of the proverbial wise man arguing with a fool. The difference is the same.

Sadder than that, it is unfortunate for the bishops that their dirty fight for the control of the church reflects the polarised political climate in the country. While Bakare has not taken an obvious political position, Kunonga has made no secret of his alignment to Zanu PF. But if we are genuine that Zimbabwe’s present political and economic crises are due to a huge democratic deficit, I can’t find a valid reason why Kunonga should not enjoy his democratic right to support Zanu PF. Didn’t Jesus Christ say as much, that we should love our enemies, for even Gentiles love their friends?

It all goes to show how badly everything in Zimbabwe has been poisoned by our brand of politics where things are never what they are but are seen for where they emanate from. For all the noise about democracy, tolerance and love for one another, Zimbabweans still fall far short of the bar. Democracy is a concept to which we pay only lip-service. There is just too much intolerance; no one wants to compromise even if the outcome means mutual self-destruction.

We have seen this brinksmanship in the negotiations between Zanu PF and the MDC. We have seen the same repeated in the negations between the two MDC formations. In our daily lives now the nation drinks from the same poisoned chalice. The nation’s suffering is perpetuated to serve the inflated egos of party leaders because everyone wants a winner-takes-all outcome.

I often wonder when sanity and maturity will return in our lifetime. I have come to expert dirty tricks in politics, knowing that man will always be greedy, selfish, immoral and self-aggrandising, but I expect church leaders to fare much better, to provide a good example to us who are frail of spirit and quick of temper. I find it difficult now to see how the church can preach tolerance among politicians and their followers as we enter this critical stage in the election process when it can’t measure up to our minimum expectations.

Last year a number of religious organisations came up with a national vision document, the Zimbabwe We Want. It proposed local initiatives on how to resolve the current crisis and alleviate people’s suffering. That project was spearheaded by Trevor Manhanga. He was known to have shared a cup of tea with President Robert Mugabe at State House. That was enough to besmirch that document before Zimbabweans of good will could debate it. Nothing constructive has replaced it to give the nation direction even as we fumble blindly for solutions.

The Zimbabwe We Want document suffered the same unlamented fate as the draft constitution which was rejected in a referendum in February 2000 — both victims of self-serving propaganda, deliberate misinformation and misconception. It was only much later that there were feeble, grudging admissions that that draft constitution was far better than anything which has so far been presented to the public. The reason it was rejected was because Zanu PF spearheaded the project.

The church had remained so far the only place less contaminated by this hate politics, hate propaganda although it has been lambasted by government for the occasional pastoral letter condemning state-sponsored violence. It was the only place some of us looked to for sobriety in debating the national crisis, knowing that churches normally don’t select followers along party lines. Little did I suspect that their leaders were equally as susceptible to the corrupting influence of the devil as are seekers of political glory.

In the despicable opera playing out in the Anglican Church in Harare, initially it took the form of a standoff between supporters of Kunonga and Bakare. This soon degenerated into court battles which Kunonga has lost but chooses to ignore. The latest episode involved physical assaults on worshippers by people said to be aligned to Kunonga. Then there was destruction of property in Glen Norah last week by people aligned to Bakare.

All this takes away from the church the moral authority to speak with sincerity on issues of violence between rival political parties. It is a sure recipe for disaster, a descent into real lawlessness. They must hang their heads in shame. We’re fed up.

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