Men of the cloth or…

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Robert Ndlovu, the new head of the Roman Catholic church in Harare, is pictured during his ordination in Harare 21 August 2004. Robert Ndlovu has vowed to unite the politically divided Zimbabwean capital, after President Robert Mugabe at the weekend accused church leaders of working against the government. Archbishop Robert Ndlovu, 48, was installed 21 August as the Archbishop of Harare at a colourful ceremony in the city centre attended by thousands of Roman Catholics, including Mugabe and his wife Grace. AFP PHOTO /STR (Photo by STR / AFP)

By Golden Guvamatanga

THERE was nothing new or extraordinary about the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference pastoral letter that was released recently except that it sought, with no success, to breathe life into the 2006 failed attempt by some sections of the church to actively and openly participate in the regime change agenda project in the country.

In 2006 the church overestimated its influence and turned political activists under the so-called ‘The Zimbabwe We Want’ project which was nothing more than an extension of the push that was coming from the West to remove ZANU PF from power.

They are back at it again, employing the same tactics, playing the devil’s advocate and taking sides with known regime change agents who have been openly calling for the ouster of the current Government through violent protests and anarchy. 

The country recently woke up to not so surprising news that the bishops had given Government what was said to be a stern ‘rebuke’ over its conduct.

All sorts of threats were laid before the innocent and progressive citizens of this country on how ‘powerful’ the Catholic bishops are and that they could indeed help push the Government out of power. 

Zimbabweans, and indeed Government, was supposed to have been shaken by the boisterous ‘pastoral’ from the bishops. 

It (Government) was supposed to have been cowed into submission, and ‘heed’ the supposedly ‘wise words’ from those so-called men of the cloth.

This is all part of the desperation that has been creeping into the anti-Zimbabwe activists’ camp in the aftermath of the July 31 2020 failed demonstrations and the failure to grain traction of the hopeless #ZimbabweanLivesMatter on social media campaign.

We understand that a postmortem of the July 31 2020 demonstrations that was conducted by Western diplomats revealed that going into the future, there must be sustained onslaught against Government and this project must incorporate ‘likeminded’ groupings.

Herein lies where and why the bishops come in.

In the wake of the faltering campaigns to once again make Harare a dark spot in global politics, the bishops are summoned to revive the project and maintain ‘pressure’ on Government.

The idea was to reignite the project ahead of the 40th SADC Heads of State and Government Summit that was held virtually on Monday.

And this is part of a build-up to next month’s United Nations General Assembly, where Zimbabwe is supposed to be presented as a failed nation, which must thus be convicted of crimes against humanity.

The plan revolves on bringing peacekeeping troops into the country.

Other media houses across the continent have been tasked to keep Zimbabwe in the news, incite violence through their biased coverage of events in the country and use of old clips as part of presentations of what they are saying is ‘evidence’ of how vile the new dispensation is.

This is where sponsors of the regime change lose it time and again.

There is a distinct failure by sponsors of the regime change agenda to sieve through real issues in Zimbabwe, in particular the significance of the liberation struggle, the symbiotic impact of Government’s empowerment agenda and the strength of other sections of the church, especially when it comes to defending the motherland.

Catholic bishops form just a tiny fraction of the Christian community in the country and cannot therefore claim to be speaking on behalf of Zimbabweans.

That is an inescapable reality which is compounded by the compelling fact that as a country we have mainly relied on indigenous churches and that the Catholic Church has been involved in some the worst crimes against humanity in this country.

Let us hear what they said in their letter:

“The struggle in Zimbabwe, between those who think they have arrived and those on the march, has resulted in a multi-layered crisis of the convergence of economic collapse, deepening poverty, food insecurity, corruption and human rights abuses among other crises in urgent need of resolution.

The call for demonstrations is the expression of growing frustration and aggravation caused by the conditions that the majority of Zimbabweans themselves are in. 

Suppression of people’s anger can only serve to deepen the crisis and take the nation into deeper crisis.

Their failure to make broad consultations with the church and civic society at this most tempestuous time was most regrettable. 

Was this not an opportunity missed?

In the meantime, some of our people continue to live in hideouts, with some incarcerated, while others are on the run. Fear runs down the spine of many of our people today. 

The crackdown on dissent is unprecedented. Is this the Zimbabwe we want? To have a different opinion does not mean to be an enemy.

We want our politics to build a united nation and not to divide us, turning the military who ought to continue the memory of the late heroes against the people who fed them and clothed them and who gathered intelligence at great risk and saved many of our fighters from peril.”

The letter was signed by Robert Ndlovu, Archbishop of Harare, Alex Thomas, Archbishop of Bulawayo and Archbishop of Mutare, Paul Horan, who are the conference’s president, vice-president and secretary respectively.

They were joined by Michael Bhasera (Bishop Masvingo), Albert Serrano (Bishop Hwange), Rudolf Nyandoro (Bishop Gokwe) and Raymond Mupandasekwa (Bishop Chinhoyi).

What was disappointing in that letter is that it was a carbon copy of the 2006 project which The Patriot unpacked on August 31 2017.

Below is what we said then:

“US Embassy funding of Church institutions and figures included funding of the Christian Alliance headed by Bishop Kadenge and Archbishop Pius Ncube’s South African-based Solidarity Peace Trust.

Both were part of riots in Zimbabwe, 

with the Christian Alliance providing Christian cover to The Save Zimbabwe Campaign around which confrontation with Government was organised.

The US also bankrolled Archbishop Ncube’s repeated travels around the world which had no financial benefits to the local Catholic Church or the Vatican. 

Therein lay the origins of ‘the broad political Church’ concept within which all oppositional forces would concert action against the Government towards the regime change goals.

As it turned out, this broad political Church housed itself in a real British and American-sponsored Church movement called the Christian Alliance, led by one Bishop Kadenge, with Archbishop Pius Ncube hard behind.

Formed parallel to the MDC’s mobilisation campaign, this pseudo-Christian body and its openly political and confrontational agenda, had alarmed other religious figures into breaking ranks with it, to start a rival platform founded on an intercessional role and seeking settlement blueprint under the banner of ‘The Zimbabwe We Want’.

It was led by Bishop Trevor Manhanga who would soon be ousted from the Evangelical Fellowship Church as punishment for his non-compliance with the radical agenda of the Christian Alliance.

While this rival movement had the numbers and an ear of the state, it soon discovered that ‘donor dollars’ would dry up quite fast over its decision to work with the Government.

The Christian Alliance, on the other hand, would be well-heeled, moreso now that it sponsored what appeared to be a programme of ‘prayer meetings’ under the political rubric of The Save Zimbabwe Campaign.

In reality, ‘prayer meetings’ hosted by the Anglo-American-backed Christian Alliance under the banner of ‘The Save Zimbabwe Campaign’, was an attempt to dress the MDC in a bishop’s cloak and robes.

The Christian Alliance hosted both factions of the MDC, the NCA, ZCTU, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, Women/Men of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA/MOZA), Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU), Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, Zimbabwe Doctors for Human Rights, Media Alliance and a whole battery of political NGOs.

The common elements across this vast welter of institutions were their shared parentage and funding.”

In May 2016 there was a fresh attempt to revive the 2006 project through the release of a document titled The Zimbabwe we want – Taking the process forward.

The document called for ‘leadership renewal across the board and for increased accountability’.

It said: “Deficiency in leadership, governance and leadership succession issues have resulted in lack of direction, policy inconsistencies, stagnation and absence of political will to tackle current challenges.”

The churches that authored the communique are the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe (FZ), the Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC), Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference (ZCBC) and Union for Development of Apostolic Churches in Zimbabwe (UDACIZA).

However, back to the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference pastoral letter, pundits contend these so-called ‘men of God’ must join active politics if it is their desire or stick to their Bibles and sermons.

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