The Emasculated Church in Zimbabwe in the Face of Political Violence

OPINION – The political and social situation in Zimbabwe over the past ten years has been worsening. The formerly opposition MDC has been a pillar to reckon with in our politics.

Apparently, ZANU PF has continued to enjoy leverage of our local politics since independence. ZANU PF led government saw the joys of a new nation, meddled with national affairs and national resources, ridiculed citizens’ lives and led the country to demise. Citizens trickled out of the country for better pastures, politically, economically, socially, even spiritually. The remaining citizens were tortured, maimed, and some even killed. To the surviving few, the birth of the Unity Government, whose ‘expiry date’ is fast approaching, was a blessing in disguise. The two year old unity of convenience has enabled Zimbabwe to stabilize and at the same time, given ZANU PF breathing space. The citizens too had some healing space.

As has happened, nothing much was expected of the unity government. That it has stabilized the economy is worth mentioning. Talk of outstanding GPA issues not resolved were things expected right from the beginning. Nobody in their proper mind would have expected ZANU PF to cooperate fully. There are many reasons for their attitude. To mention only but two, they have their wealth to protect, self interests, secondly, if justice was to play its role, the majority of them would be reeling in Chikurubi and other prisons nationwide. It is understandable they had to behave the way they did and continue to do. What’s shocking has been the silence from the church in Zimbabwe. I mean real silence! The two year-long life of the unity government has not been fully utilized to unite Zimbabweans, and to forge ahead a nation of principles and hope. The church has failed dismally to cease the opportunity and play a central uniting role.

Before I put the cart before the horse, let me present the premises leading me to such a conclusion that the church has been a toothless bulldog. Firstly, who amongst us is not aware of the tensions, even conflicts, political violence, stolen election, human rights abuses, mass state sanctioned murders that exist at the moment? I bet we all know. The church too knows but has chosen to play it low. A few pastoral statements have been made, with no meaningful follow up to both the citizens (communion of faithful) and the politicians. The few pastoral statements written at least represent one form of dialogue and communication, even if not the best. But, the lack of communication, the mutual disregard, the disinterest and the drifting apart of the inclusive government partners have not been challenged: all these things are much worse.

Political violence has become part of our history. This is the phenomenon with which we are confronted with today. It often feels like taking part in a dialogue between the deaf. And anyone who has taken part more than once already knows in advance what the one side is going to say to the argument of the other, the response coming with the regularity of a political wheel. Accusations and counter accusations of violence are what we witness these days. ZANU PF unashamedly accuses MDC youths of instigating violence in different townships in Harare and other towns. As if that was not enough, MDC makes firm allegations that violence is caused by ZANU PF thugs bussed from youth training camps. The sole purpose of these thugs is to instill fear, to confuse, to threaten, to destroy property, to prepare for the bloody campaign coming soon.

The paradox of the situation is that the Church in Zimbabwe is watching from the terraces, and yet remains silent. At present, it is obvious that something has gone wrong with our political system. We have experienced violence and the coming elections are not going to be any different. The church is called to be prophet and not to mince her words in condemning perpetrators of violence, be it from the ignorant youth driven by greedy and desperation or from state organs of security, or the political powers of the highest echelons.

It seems to me, it is the church’s duty to restore dialogue and communication by means of reasoned argument, into the process of communication in our filthy political system. The church is the salt of the earth and I am scared to think that she has lost her saltiness. However, if so, it is better for the church to be trodden under foot by men. Did the church shout ‘injustice’ when prominent names were mentioned in diamond lootings, the filth rich minister of Local Government from Zvimba was named a looter, when an MP called for MDC vehicles to be burnt, called for his party thugs to attack, torture and kill. The church has been silent like a virgin at the market place. Has the church lost its saltiness?

Am I right to declare that the church is second culprit after ZANU PF due to her silence? How many of our pastors and priests preach against violence in times like this? How many preach peace and justice, punishment to criminals, prosecution of perpetrators of gross human rights violations? The church prefers to stay silent, and avoid confrontation. If Jesus was like today’s ministers of the Word, then he would not have accomplished his mission.

It might sound unkind to lay blame on the church, but it is justified to do so. The church is the conscience of society. But what conscience is being instilled in our politicians when they dine and wine with church leaders whose hands are tainted with ill-gotten wealth, tainted with human blood, tainted with tears from the suffering masses of Zimbabwe. Unfortunately, ideas of this kind are easily seduced by ideologies and can be misused for ideological purposes.

I plead for more to say in things and more co-responsibility, greater permeability of information and more transparency in the decision process than we have at present in the inclusive government. A new constitution is the least we can get before any meaningful election. Has the church spoken on this? In this respect, not all legitimate expectations will be fulfilled subjecting us to yet another violent election.