By Mashingaidze Gomo
IN his Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) on November 11 1965 Christian Ian Smith said: “We have struck a blow for the preservation of justice, civilisation and Christianity.
“And, in the spirit of this belief, we have this day assumed our sovereign independence.”
His Information Minister, Jack Howe, who had drafted the declaration, later said while he had based the draft on the American Declaration of Independence (1776), he had deliberately omitted the key phrase: ‘All men are born equal’, because he did not believe blacks were born equal to whites.
And, after the declaration, the whole Cabinet of Christians had gone into the adjourning Anglican Cathedral and prayed to their Christian God.
And, years later, Smith was to reiterate his racist position: “I don’t believe in black majority rule ever in Rhodesia.
“Not in a thousand years!”
And to explain his Christian position he said: “We’ve got to be scrupulously clean, straightforward and honest.
“We are not prepared to resort to any devious standards.
“That is our philosophy.”
And among his Christian foot soldiers was David Coltart, a product of the Christian Brothers College.
Coltart was not educated at Mpopoma because it was all-black and did not have the racially exclusive amenities found at the Christian Brothers College, a Catholic private school in Bulawayo run by Irish brothers.
Of course, it was the same Catholic Church that had supposedly brought the ‘Good News’ to heathen black people after direct involvement in the institution of slavery – after financing slavery and giving the ‘ok’ that it was good business to sell Africans.
It was the same Catholic church that had blessed the murder of Mbuya Nehanda, Sekuru Kaguvi and thousands more who had resisted British occupation of Zimbabwe.
The Catholic Church did not build Christian Brothers College for the children of black people.
The Catholic Church built Chishawasha Mission for the children of black people. And then they built Christian Brothers College for the children of white people.
It was racially informed policy that confirmed Frantz Fanon’s observation that Christian brotherhood as perceived by colonials had nothing to do with the dignity of Africans.
And, indeed, Christian brotherhood as perceived by Rhodesian Christians had nothing to do with the dignity of Africans.
This is amply shown in racist Mike Campbell’s words in his racist son-in-law, Benjamin Freeth’s propagandist documentary: Mugabe and the White African.
The racist says: “We love these guys (his landless black farm workers).
“They are loyal to us.”
Another good example is Coltart’s confession in his Acton Lecture (Australia). Talking about Zimbabwe in the context of land ownership, he says that his favourite verse in the Bible is Matthew 25:28 which says: “So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the 10 talents.”
And, it doesn’t matter to him that his own 10 talents were taken from the same black Zimbabweans whom he thinks must still lose the last talent to him.
And, today, it is in this savage historical context, that we must ask ourselves if it would be in our interests to let the Christian churches that savaged Africans be the ones to arrogate to themselves the moral authority to judge their surviving victims’ initiatives to determine the destiny of their descendents?
We must also question the wisdom of sharing the same concept of God with those who feel that the Christian Bible entitles them to exploit as well as dispossess us.
In this regard, moral authority can’t just be a linguistic expression.
It is one of the many forms of power by which human society organises and sustains itself.
It is a critical element or definition of the sovereignty of any people.
The holders of moral authority in any society must be defined by history.
Africa’s tragedy lies in failure to separate the speaker/messenger from the message.
And, that failure has seen racists like Coltart, Mike Campbell and other Rhodesians whose hands drip with the blood of innocent Zimbabweans arrogate to themselves the moral authority to judge those who survived and bore the brunt of their genocidal excesses.
And they have done so because we have allowed them to do so.
We have allowed them to say: ‘I wear a Christian label, therefore I am right’.
We have allowed them to say: ‘I am speaking from the church pulpit, therefore I am right’.
We have allowed them to say: ‘If I quote the Bible to support my racist indulgences, then I must be right and on that basis, I have the moral authority to judge you’.
We even have Johnny-come-late missionaries like Freeth applying the same simple-minded logic to justify the racist dispossession of black people.
His documentary, Mugabe and the White African is a sick litany of prayers specifically de-contextualised from Africa’s history of dispossession in order for the racists to arrogate the moral authority to further dispossess and exploit their black victims.
We have lacked the courage to lift the Pope’s garment to reveal the shame that is hidden underneath.
That is where the rain began to beat us.