THE Bishop Alex Muchabaiwa-chaired Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace in Zimbabwe (CCJPZ) has released its reflections on the recent Chirumanzu-Zibagwe and Mt Darwin by-elections.
ZANU PF won the by-elections.
Going through the report, one gets a strong impression of someone who went there and got a result that he did not want.
There is a lot of evidence in the report to show that.
But before going into the details of the Commission’s report, it is important to point out that many people, including Catholics, do not understand the mind and thinking of the Catholic Church.
In order to understand the position of the Catholic Church in the politics of Zimbabwe, it must be highlighted that a Catholic priest called Father Hartmann, was the Chaplin of the Pioneer Column.
In other words, the Catholic Church catered for the spiritual needs of the military force that occupied the country.
And for that contribution and service, Cecil Rhodes rewarded the Catholic Church with 15 000 acres of land at Chishawasha, a short distance outside Salisbury.
It was from Chishawasha that Father Hartmann would write before the outbreak of the uprising in 1895: “The Mashonas have hardly any idea of a supreme being.
“They are held together by nothing except the unity of their language.”
This was the extent of the church’s ignorance of the Shona people.
As if that was not enough, after the outbreak of the war in 1896, another Catholic priest, Father Biehler, would suggest the final solution to the Mashona problem.
He wrote from Chishawasha to Lord Earl Grey, the administrator of Rhodesia: “The only chance for the future of the race (blacks) is to exterminate the whole people, both male and female, over the age of 14!”
In the 1920s, the British would implement exactly the same policy to resolve the questions of the indigenous Aborigines.
They snatched the children away from their parents and dumped the parents in protected villages to waste away and die while they moulded the children into images of their imagination.
The Aborigines have taken the British to court over the matter.
Forty years later in Nazi Germany during the Second World War, Adolf Hitler would propose the same final solution to resolve what he termed ‘the Jewish question’.
There was a spirited attempt by some local white Catholic priests to defend Fr Biehler, to say that he was quoted out of context, but what was sickening about their attempt was the assumption that we would believe it.
It shows the extent of how lowly they view us.
Fr Biehler passed on the baton-stick and it has changed many hands until now it is with Bishop Muchabaiwa, one of our own; the man whose name is appended to the report on the Mt Darwin and Chirumanzu-Zibagwe by-elections.
In its introduction, the report claims to “speak for those who cannot speak for themselves and to defend the rights of the poor and the needy”.
But it’s a lie for the Commission to use that argument to speak for the MDC that refused to participate in the by- elections because the MDC has always had the voice and the space to speak for itself.
“The Church noted those parties that did not take part in the elections and understand their concern and ENCOURAGE them to partner with similar minded institutions and PUSH HARDER for the necessary reforms to the new constitution.”
By openly encouraging the MDC to push harder for the reforms, the Commission has thrown away all pretence to be a neutral observer and become a shameless player.
Let us take the security sector reforms.
Of course Bishop Muchabaiwa understands the implications of replacing General Constantine Chiwenga with Giles Mutsekwa or David Coltart, both of them former Rhodesian soldiers and MDC leaders.
He should know because it has always been the political agenda of the Catholic Church since the days of Father Goncalo Da Silveria who was killed by Chief Negomo, the newly crowned Monomotapa or “the golden King’ as the Moslems called him, in 1562 for being a spy.
The priest had been sent by the Portuguese King in Lisbon to investigate stories
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of limitless quantities of gold in the land called Ophir.
This is what General Chiwenga will defend; the vision and values that the Monomotapa promoted as far back as the 16th century.
Chief Negomo was right, Father Silveira was a Portuguese spy.
While ‘General’ David Coltart will consciously defend the interests of his fellow whites, ‘General’ Giles Mutsekwa will do the same in the foolish belief that it is the only way to extricate the country out of its present economic problems.
Perhaps Bishop Muchabaiwa is just as foolish as Giles Mutsekwa.
It took the white farmers nearly 100 years to get to the level of production they reached in 2000 most of it achieved after 1980 because that was when the sanctions imposed on Rhodesia were removed and all avenues suddenly opened.
Bishop Muchabaiwa needs to be reminded unequivocally; we will also get there, but that the journey requires leadership imbued with vision and fortitude.
It was the message that President Robert Mugabe conveyed to his South African counterpart during his state visit to that country last week: the journey to empower his people does not require a lily-livered leadership.
There would be fierce resistance and even blood along the way.
If something as small as calling to remove the statue of Cecil Rhodes from the University of Cape Town could trigger such a hostile response from the whites, how about attempting to take back the land?
There could be another war.
The report seemed surprised there was a high voter turnout in the resettlement areas and suggests people might have been forced or people feared confiscation of their land.
Bishop Muchabaiwa thinks ZANU PF is a bigger threat to the resettled farmers whom the party has empowered, than the white man who was to take the land back!
What horribly twisted white thinking!
The people came out in their numbers to defend their pieces of land through their vote.
When will the Catholic Church believe the African knows what he wants and is prepared to defend it?
It was the same propaganda we fought from the whites throughout the war that people who joined the war were either forced or abducted against their will.
That was how Fr Hartmann viewed the African.
That was how Ian Smith viewed the African.
It’s the same horrible perception that Bishop Muchabaiwa wants to perpetuate.
The report concludes there was voter apathy in the non-resettlement areas and institutionalised fear in the voters.
The world over, by-elections are characterised by their low voter turn-out.
In Mt-Darwin constituency, 18 000 people cast their vote in the by-election equal to the 18 000 in the 2013 general elections.
In Chirumanzu-Zibabgwe constituency, 16 000 people cast their vote against 18 000 in the 2013 general elections.
For God’s sake, what voter apathy is the Catholic Church talking about?
It might be appropriate to mention it was the same CCJPZ that wrote the report on GUKURAHUNDI in Matabeleland that alleges 20 000 people lost their lives.
David Coltart, a former Rhodesian soldier and a leader in the MDC wrote that report and he makes no secret of it.
The report is premised on two worrying myths:
i) that the disturbances were confined to Matabeleland and
ii) that more than 20 000 died.
The fact is the disturbances spilled as far inland as Msengezi in Mashonaland West less than 100 kilometres from Harare and more than 300 kilometres from Matabeleland.
To attempt to confine the disturbances to Matabeleland amplifies the myth of the ethnic differences between the Shonas and the Ndebeles, a strategy that white control feeds off.
Cecil John Rhodes used it to occupy the country and Father Nigel Johnstone of Radio Dialogue in Bulawayo knows this all too well.
The second myth is about the staggering figure of 20 000 the report gives as people who died.
The entire Zimbabwe liberation war from 1966 to 1980 claimed about 50 000 lives and today, the Zimbabwe Fallen Heroes Trust is inundated with calls from villagers in the operational areas to the east of the country to come and dig up mass graves of victims killed during the war.
Given the staggering figure of 20 000, a mass grave is a reasonable expectation to hear about.
When will some villager lead the CCJPZ to this mass grave?
In our opinion, the figure of 20 000 is a myth cooked up by David Coltart and the Catholic Church to accentuate the perception of the Ndebeles as the victims of the brutal Shonas.
Some independent analysts put the figure of the number of people killed during the disturbances at 2 000 and it is by no means a small and forgivable number.
There are moments when one yearns for the Catholic Church of the likes of Bishop Donal Lamont the author of the famous The Man In The Middle and Father Michael Traeber, the famous editor of the Catholic newspaper, Moto.
Both men were deported from Rhodesia by Ian Smith.
Where has that Catholic Church that was so clearly on the side of the oppressed black man gone?
Perhaps they were mere rebels who tried to break away from the straight jacket of mainstream philosophy of the Catholic Church.
The absence of any show of public support for them from their colleagues like Fr Wermter and Bishop Muchabaiwa who have now suddenly found their voices against the African establishment, points a horrible finger to that.
I am a disinterested Catholic.
I lost interest in Standard Six at Marymount Mission when I realised with shock the priests were creating in our little minds the impression we would only go to Heaven through their generosity and good will; it was just a feeling.
It seemed they wanted to extend the tragedy and pain of our colonisation to the life after we died!
Of course it was during the war that I was finally able to see clearly and put into words this resentment.
At Marymount those years ago, I just lost interest.
It was just a feeling.
No matter how much one might disagree with Emmanuel Makandiwa and Walter Magaya, it must be appreciated these young men are trying to give Christianity an African identity.
The Catholic Church has always been on the side of the whiteman, it is a pity Bishop Muchabaiwa pretends it isn’t the case.
And worse, it is a shame for him to claim that he is defending the identity of the African.
This is a prayer for the Catholic Church.
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