MDC-T and Zanu PF’s dogged contest for the religious vote continued in earnest this week with President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai both securing endorsements in different parts of Manicaland province.
Retired Bishop Sebastian Bakare led a team of Anglicans in endorsing Tsvangirai for the presidency at the party’s rally at Sakubva Stadium in Mutare last Saturday.
Bakare equated Tsvangirai to the biblical Nehemiah who led the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem.
“Zimbabweans are like the Israelites who endured two spells of bondage in Egypt and in Babylon,” said Bakare. “Tsvangirai is Nehemiah who will lead Zimbabwe out of the second bondage.
“I am here because of my yearning to see the birth of a new Zimbabwe.
He (Tsvangirai) has been sent to build a new Zimbabwe and that Zimbabwe will not be built with fists,” Bakare said alluding to political violence that has marred previous elections in Zimbabwe.
Some 100km away from Sakubva in diamond-rich Marange, Mugabe received similar endorsement from the Johane Marange apostolic sect during its passover festival.
Mugabe donned the lily-white garb of the sect in his quest to win over their vote.
His efforts did not go “unrewarded” as he was endorsed as mutumwa (messenger of God). Mugabe was subsequently promised more than two million votes from the church’s membership.
Lyrics to well-known religious songs were suitably altered to accommodate both politicians with chants of Tambirai mutumwa, tambirai mutumwa! (Welcome the messenger) accompanying Mugabe’s every step into the shrine at Marange.
Not to be outdone, Bakare’s choir lionised Tsvangirai with the song lyrics “Save ndimambo, ndiye mwenje kana murima handitye (Tsvangirai is king, he is the light and even in darkness I fear nothing)”.
Away from the glare of the cameras and in a brief private moment, Bakare continued with his pro-MDC crusade hailing Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn leader Simba Makoni for teaming up with Tsvangirai in a loose election alliance to unseat Mugabe.
“I am happy you are here,” Bakare whispered to Makoni. “We are the security here in Manicaland, guarding the place for you,” he said.
Bakare has been a fierce Zanu PF critic over the party’s human rights violations and interference with the internal affairs of the Anglican Church due to its support for ex-communicated Harare Anglican Bishop Nolbert Kunonga.
In a show of support for Tsvangirai during the run-up to the 2008 elections, Bakare called on voters to use their vote to “express themselves on the state of the nation, wrecked by hyperinflation and a permanent political crisis”.