George Maponga in Masvingo
Indigenous African churches have been hailed for sowing the first seed of resistance to colonial rule, culminating in the successful prosecution of the liberation war that led to Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980.Apostolic Christian Council of Zimbabwe president Reverend Johannes Ndanga paid tribute to founders of indigenous churches in Zimbabwe for defying the colonial government by preaching the word of God to enlighten Africans.
Addressing tens of thousands of Zion Christian Church, ST Engenus congregants at their Judea headquarters in Muchechetere village in Zaka at the weekend, Rev Ndanga said the indigenous African churches deserved praise for fostering unity and peace in Zimbabwe.
Rev Ndanga said founders of the indigenous churches were supposed to be venerated like heroes in other fields of human endeavour such as politics and sport.
He said most founders of these churches bore the brunt of Rhodesian oppression and suppression and remained steadfast in the quest to preach the word of God to Africans.
“Every field has its own heroes; we have heroes in politics, soccer, boxing and various other spheres, but I think we have not done enough as a country to honour our heroes in the field of Christianity, especially the founding fathers of our indigenous African churches,’’ he said.
“We have so many of these founders of African churches who pioneered the spread of the gospel among indigenous people. They encountered many challenges as they were subjected to harassment, arrests and even torture by the colonial regime, but they soldiered on. They inspired the execution of the war of liberation that brought down the racist Rhodesian regime,’’ he added.
Rev Ndanga challenged the indigenous African churches to be at the forefront of solving problems afflicting the nation.
“Problems such as drought, disease and even political conflicts can easily be solved if churches lead the way in seeking solutions. Churches play a very important role in any country and they deserve recognition,’’ said Rev Ndanga.
He lamented the proliferation of conflicts within the indigenous African churches, saying they were supposed to work in unison to engender peace and prosperity in Zimbabwe.
“We do not want to hear of these conflicts among the indigenous churches; once churches fight they divide the nation. Most of these battles among churches are about who has more followers than the other and various petty issues, that must stop,’’ he added.
He said many indigenous church leaders in Zimbabwe tended to forget that they were on a God-send mission to heal and bring prosperity to the nation.
Rev Ndanga said ACCZ introduced Official Order of Merit Awards, the highest honour bestowed upon leaders of indigenous African churches who pioneered the mission to spread the Word of God among blacks during colonial rule.
Some of the awards were conferred posthumously and so far 33 indigenous African church leaders had received the award in Zimbabwe.
Rev Ndanga posthumously conferred the Official Order of Merit Award to the founder of ZCC St Engenus, the late Bishop Saul Mawewe, who passed on in 1979. The award was received by Bishop Mawewe’s son, Bishop Offiro Mawewe, who succeeded the former as church leader.
The late Bishop Mawewe, who was born in 1878, was arrested by the Rhodesian regime countless times in the 1940s for preaching the word of God to Africans. He was condemned to forced labour including construction of the Masvingo-Chiredzi highway for preaching the word of God.
He also assisted freedom fighters with prayers during the war of liberation and before his death he prophesied the impending attainment of Zimbabwe’s independence and the return of land into the hands of blacks under President Mugabe’s leadership.