The little bishop

muzorewaMany reports and obituaries encourage us to think that Bishop Abel Muzorewa was just a puppet of the Rhodesian Front and black 'sell-outs.' (Pictured: Bishop Abel Muzorewa prepared for an embarrassing "trek" around Salisbury (Harare) in an ox-wagon watched by visitors from South Africa.)

Yet, during his early days as leader first, of the African National Council (ANC) and then of the United African National Council (UANC) national heroes like James Chikerema, George Nyandoro gave him their support. Those two men led the people when Robert Mugabe was living comfortably with his rich wife, Sally, in Ghana.

The formidable intellectual, Professor Stanlake Samkange and one of the Commonwealth greatest jurists, Dr Enoch Dumbutshena, also lent their support to Muzorewa for a while. But more important than the encouragement he received from these noble men was the support he received from African women who liked the little bishop, not because of his theories about dialectical materialism or how powers grows out of the barrel of an AK-47, but because of his concern for ordinary people.

It is often forgotten that it was Mugabes followers – engineered by the late Dr Eddison Zvobgo – who persuaded Muzorewa to come down from his United Methodist Church pulpit and lead the ANCs fight at the time of the Pearce Commission in 1972. It was sad to see what happened to him after he signed a unity accord with Ian Smith in March 1978. Instead of relying on his once substantial grass roots African followers, he let himself be taken over by a team of white spin doctors who turned him into a celebrity, a sort of Comrade Mr Nice Guy whod appeal to white Rhodesians and South Africans.

It was embarrassing, hideously so, to see him in 1979 dressed up as an African warrior (or harlequin) and pulled around Salisbury in an ox-wagon – a circus act to amuse and re-assure Europeans and get good coverage on the telly. His disgraceful remarks about how pleased he was that the Rhodesia Air Force kept on bombing refugee camps in Mozambique were scripted by cynical and mob-pleasing out of touch spin doctors. But he didnt have to go along with them and stands condemned for what he said.

Muzorewa was always a man unable to swim with sharks or face lions in the arena and he should never have been put in the pool or a Rhodesian Coliseum in the first place. In the pulpit before December 1971, Muzorewa sometimes touched greatness. When he left it, he ended up as a bit of a joke winning only three seats in the March 1980 election. But lets always remember why he left the pulpit.

In some ways, Bishop Abel Muzorewa was more of a puppet/victim of the then Zanu and ZAPU than he was of Ian Smith.

Post published in: Opinions

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