By Elizabeth Sitotombe
THE Church should never be compromised, neither should it overestimate its influence.
Certain sections of the Church see it fit to actively and openly participate in politics fomenting disharmony instead of preaching love and unity.
These sections should not mistake tolerance for weakness.
We have been unfortunate in Zimbabwe to find several churches that take it upon themselves, under the guide of a hidden hand, to launch an onslaught on the Government and the ruling ZANU PF each time elections are on the horizon.
It is nothing new.
The Patriot has previously written on churches that have taken that unwise step of pushing for the ouster of the ZANU PF Government from power by speaking on behalf of their preferred candidates.
They are well-financed too.
Indeed the disclosure of this unholy alliance has always been viewed as ZANU PF propaganda, but alas those found wanting will continue to be exposed.
The new secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference (ZCBC), Tryvis Moyo, recently accused the ruling Party and Government of failing to institute all needed electoral reforms, engage in national talks and even claimed that the polls were obviously going to be disputed.
“Given the time that is left before elections, it appears as if nothing much will happen in terms of implementing electoral reforms, which means that we are going to have elections under the same conditions that we had previously,” Fr Moyo is quoted as saying.
The last elections were declared free and fair.
The conditions they speak of are the false narratives they were earnestly trying to portray but clearly failed.
“There are a number of issues which need to be dealt with and there is no time for implementation of that and we are concerned that we will have elections that will be disputed again at the end,” Fr Moyo continued.
Disputed by who and why?
Fr Moyo went on to claim there had been low-level talks among various stakeholders and the talks had not reached the level of critical players.
Again who are the critical players?
POLAD was created for all Presidential candidates who felt compelled to work with the Government to move the country forward. It was endorsed by the UN, AU and SADC.
It is through POLAD that all these discussions can be made. But the ones they are backing refused to be part of this progressive group and hence they choose to hold their own little talks.
The same opposition party that refused to be a part of POLAD has been prancing around the globe claiming they have tried and failed to engage President Emmerson Mnangagwa on key national issues.
It’s the same old and tired tactic.
The ZCBC was established in 1969.
The primary objective of the ZCBC is to promote solidarity among the bishops of Zimbabwe, and promotion of self-sufficiency among each of the dioceses. Nowhere in their profile does it state they have a duty to bring disunity in the country. Some are of the opinion that they should rather stick to their bibles and sermons instead.
They joined the bandwagon of individuals and entities seeking to manufacture a ‘crises’ with the purpose of achieving political goals. It is through their infamous pastoral letters that their sentiments are echoed.
In their pastoral letter ‘The Unjust Fetters’ released earlier this year, they chose to run their mouths off again: “… we see that our people are being used as ponies in the power game. Clearly they are victims of political violence fanned by reckless utterances of the political leadership in its quest for power.”
If anyone is reckless in their utterances it is the ZCBC and the opposition. They do tend to contradict themselves. The same Father Moyo who claims there is some kind of unrest in the country is on record saying, during this year’s Independence Day celebrations, that the “…peaceful environment which is in the country was of paramount importance.”
He recognises the peace in the country, albeit grudgingly.
If he admits the environment in the country is peaceful, why then does he lambast the same Government that fosters this peace?
The letter went on: “We go to this important General Election to elect a leader that has a clear plan about how to put families first by creating good employment so as to lower the increased number of or people living in desperate situations of outright deprivation. This election must bring to the highest office a leader who cares about the health of the excluded poor both young and old.”
Everyone has witnessed how new clinics are being built and old ones being refurbished, improving health service delivery in just a space of five years.
Zimbabwe is well on its way to achieving its goal of becoming an upper-middle income country by 2030 under the Second Republic.
Meanwhile, during the launch of the group, Pastors for Economic Development (Pastors4ED), President Mnangagwa implored men of the cloth to refrain from being swayed into using religion and religious spaces as a tool to advance the nefarious agenda of detractors.
“Men and women of the cloth, together with religious institutions, should never be conduits for pursuing regionalism, tribalism, division and other neo-imperial propaganda,” the President cautioned.
He also urged the Church to preach the gospel of unity, peace and harmony ahead of this year’s election and added that the Government had put in place measures to ensure that the elections would be peaceful, credible and transparent.
Here is the President saying one thing while the men of cloth say the opposite.
Before elections have not even taken place, some people have already declared them as not being free and fair.
What they really mean is that they want the opposition to win; failure to do so would mean election results are unacceptable.
They are certainly in for another disappointment.`
It is important to point out that many people do not understand the Roman Catholic Church as an institution.
In order to grasp the role of the Catholic Church in the politics of Zimbabwe and how it disturbed the religious, cultural and social fabric of MaDzimbahwe, history is the best teacher.
Others may hail the Catholic Church for establishing schools nationwide, but people must never forget that whites have no permanent friends, but interests.
Yes, we have the likes of Marist Brothers, Kutama College, St Ignatious College, Hartmann House, Dominican Convent, St George’s College and other Catholic Schools dotted around the country.
Let it be known that a Catholic priest, Father Andrew Hartmann, was chaplain of the British armed force, the Pioneer Column, that seized Zimbabwe on September 12 1890.
Today, we have a school, Hartmann House, built in his honour and one wonders if students churned from that institution over the years celebrate being Zimbabwean and really know what it means to be Zimbabwean!
No doubt the Catholic Church catered for the ‘spiritual’ needs of the military force that invaded Zimbabwe.
These were men on a mission, ‘praying’ to steal land from MaDzimbahwe.
For that contribution and service in 1891, the chief coloniser, Cecil John Rhodes, rewarded the Catholic Church with 15 000 acres of land in Chishawasha, about 25 km north-east of the then Salisbury (now Harare).
On February 15 1897, one Fr Biehler, a Catholic priest at Chishawasha Mission, complained to Lord Earl Grey, the then administrator of Rhodesia, in one of his intelligence reports during the First Chimurenga saying:
“Our mode of fighting is not the proper one for MaShonas…. It seems to to me that the only way of doing anything at all with these natives is to starve them, destroy their lands and kill all that can be killed.
MaShonas are the most hopeless of mankind and the only chance for the future of the race is to exterminate the whole people, both male and female, over the age of 14.”
Ask yourself reader: Why such a genocidal solution by a supposedly ‘holy father’ of the Roman Catholic Church?
Indeed, Fr Biehler’s sentiments became the official scotched-earth military policy which the colonial army implemented with a ruthlessness which decimated everything it came across.
What kind of Church proposes genocide as a solution to justified African resistance?
What sort of Church baptised Africans and gave them English names before hanging them?
Sekuru Kaguvi is a classic example.
On April 27 1898, one Father Richartz baptised Sekuru Kaguvi and christened him ‘Dismas’ (the good thief who was crucified alongside Jesus).
He was hanged shortly afterwards.
His crime – fighting for his land.
Mbuya Nehanda, on the other hand, refused to be baptised.
Instead, she vowed: “Mapfupa angu achamuka! (My bones shall rise)”
Father Richartz must have been gutted for failing to convert Mbuya Nehanda.
Still, they hanged her.
According to the late Dr Felix Muchemwa, in his book The Struggle for Land in Zimbabwe (1890-2010): “Father Richartz blessed the white settler-perpetrators of the genocide and baptised the African victims before they were murdered.”
This, among other atrocities, is worth looking at in order to understand the Roman Catholic Church.
Fr Biehler passed on the baton-stick and it has now changed many hands.