SOME churches in Zimbabwe have postponed their annual gatherings, which usually take place between July and August, fearing the events would be hijacked by politicians as the country marches towards crucial polls set for July 31.
Sources in the Salvation Army said the church’s annual meeting that had been pencilled for July in Gweru was called off to avoid politicians turning the events into political rallies.
“We were to have our annual meeting in Gweru but judging by the political temperatures which are rising, the leadership decided to postpone them until after the elections,” said a Salvation Army member.
“In the past we have seen politicians taking over our meetings and turning them into rallies.”
The sources also said Vice-President Joice Mujuru, who is a senior captain in the Salvation Army, would most likely have attended the meeting with her party supporters.
As part of its campaign strategy, Zanu PF is approaching churches to woo voters in an attempt to reverse the loss President Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF suffered in 2008 to Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and the MDC-T.
The flurry of “church activities” by Zanu PF bigwigs during the past four years has betrayed the party’s motives.
Last week, Mugabe attended the apostolic sect annual passover festival in Marange where he pleaded with them to vote for Zanu PF in the forthcoming elections.
However, hundreds of his supporters, who had been bussed to the shrine, were not allowed into the centre because church officials said it was a religious gathering, not a party rally and anyone clad in party regalia was not welcome.
The Seventh-Day Adventist Church almost postponed its annual camp meetings, which start on August 11 countrywide, when there was talk of extending elections by two weeks.
“Plans were afoot to postpone the dates of the camp meetings countrywide to avoid a similar situation which happened in 2012 when census officials disturbed our gatherings,” said one church member.
Political parties are particularly battling to get the backing of the United Family International Church (Ufic), led by Emmanuel Makandiwa, which draws crowds of more than 60 000 people at Sunday services.
Senior Zanu PF officials such as Tourism minister Walter Mzembi, Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo and Bright Matonga are regulars at Ufic.