Mugabe “playing games” with church leaders

BY TERERAI KARIMAKWENDA
HARARE - Controversy has surrounded the Zimbabwean church group that met with Robert Mugabe last month. It all started when the Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC), which organizes the traditional National Day of Prayer, met Mugabe and appeared on state television immediate

ly afterwards.
Many observers, particularly the Bulawayo based Christian Alliance, said they showed support for the ruling party and its policies. Then the Day of Prayer was cancelled, and this was viewed as further evidence the ZCC was playing into Mugabe’s hand. In an interview with SW Radio Africa on Monday Bishop Trevor Manhanga of the ZCC said the Day of Prayer was not cancelled but postponed in order to involve many other groups. As for supporting Mugabe, the Bishop said they have opened up a dialogue with Mugabe and will present a document with recommendations for the way forward. He said the ZCC did not support any political party, including the opposition.
But the Mbare-based Jesuit priest, Oskar Wermter, disagrees with the approach the ZCC has taken. “Deeds speak louder than words and we need to see a change of course first and justice for the people,” he said.
Wermter believes until there was some redeeming action by Mugabe there could be no meaningful dialogue. He also believes Mugabe is a very clever man playing games with the church leaders. “He should first show through his actions that he is serious and means well this time. Until then, there is no basis for dialogue,” he said.
We asked Bishop Manhanga whether Mugabe seemed repentant and concerned about the suffering of the people. Manhanga said his personal observation was that Mugabe understood the suffering of the people. But asked why they should trust Mugabe when more evictions and arrests had taken place since their meeting with him, the Bishop said this was a cause for concern and would be brought to Mugabe’s attention in the document they were preparing to submit to him. He said the ZCC would meet Morgan Tsvangirai and other officials from the MDC and would engage other stakeholders before completing the document.
As for the Zimbabwe Christian Alliance, which opposed inviting Mugabe to the National Day of Prayer now scheduled for June 25th, Manhanga dismissed them as individual pastors who did not represent any constituency. He said there would be no politics on that Sunday and people would pray for the nation.
“Mugabe needs to be there to hear the prayers along with other key Zimbabweans, he said.
Wermter said the Bishop’s attitude toward the Christian Alliance showed the tactics of the regime were “bearing fruit.” He said it was sad to see Christians attacking Christians.

Post published in: Opinions

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