State targets church

HARARE – To cancel the National Day of Prayer held annually on May 25 and to replace it with a government-sponsored event is just another step in Zanu (PF)’s efforts to divide or neutralise the Church, having suppressed most other independent voices.

Attendance at this event w

as no more than 5000, including the party faithful who were bussed in free. Government had planned for 20,000, so this can hardly be called a success. They blame the Christian Alliance for the low turnout, but most ordinary church members felt so unenthusiastic there is no need to create conspiracy theories.

Getting leaders of the Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC), the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe (EFZ) and the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference (ZCBC) to talk with the government is another step in this direction. Subverting the leadership of any organisation is usually easier than fooling the mass of the membership, but even here government are labouring.

The CIO’s harassing of Methodist Bishop Levee Kadenge after a pastors’ meeting in Highfield on June 22 was a sign that they are worried. That meeting invited the leaders of ZCC, EFZ and ZCBC to a further meeting on June 28, to explain their position in the reported negotiations. The National Pastors’ Conference were curious and somewhat worried, but recognised that what they heard from the media could well have been distorted.

The 28 June meeting was prevented by unidentified men who threatened the minister of the church where it was supposed to be held, New Highfield Methodist church, with what they could do to his church (and his own house is in the church compound) so he decided it was safer not to hold the meeting.

Clearly someone does not want open communication between church leadership and the rank and file, even rank and file ministers of their churches. The CIO had accused Bishop Kadenge and others of trying to start a new political party, but they had their agents in the meeting who could testify that this was not true.

Presumably they are up to the old trick of isolating those they want to fool. Some senior churchmen do look less resolute than they were, and some have been praise-singers of the regime for years, but there is still hope that the majority maintain the position that no dialogue can be expected until the regime shows a changed spirit, the country has a people-driven constitution and the perpetrators of violent political crimes since 2000 repent.

Some church leaders seem to believe that they can talk in the hope that this stage will be hastened by their talking. The ordinary church members hope that, if the leaders try this, they remember that he who sups with the devil needs a long spoon. Otherwise, the best that can be expected from talks is a zhing zhong agreement – one that falls apart when you try to use it.

More likely the talks would lead to inescapable entanglements. Zanu (PF) are experts at that. They don’t need to fool or co-opt the whole leadership: splitting them or dividing them from their followers would significantly weaken the Church. We wait to see what the next few weeks bring.

On the other hand, the regime is getting more desperate. This might be the last kick of a dying horse, in which case the church leaders should certainly keep their distance.

Post published in: Opinions

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