Beware the Ides of March, Bishop Mutendi

OPINION – From the vantage perspective of maternal grandson to one of the church elders who were very close to Nehemiah Mutendi’s late father, Bishop Samuel Mutendi (or Samere as he is popularly known in my home village), I’ve seen it fit to share my views on the religio-political development as it unfolded at Mbungo during the holy Easter break.

At the gracious invitation of Bishop Mutendi to open new church facilities at Mbungo, just a few kilometres east of the town of Masvingo towards Mutare, President Mugabe blundered again as he did recently following the Livingstone summit. I sympathise with VP Joice Mujuru as she may be left with no option but to approach the Catholic Church and apologise. True to form, the president manipulated the religious occasion for political mileage. Capitalising on the invitation was not at all a surprise as he has done so before when invited to other denominations such as Johanne Masove and Madzibaba Nzira’s sects. The most unfortunate part was his attack of the church that fed and educated him, literally.

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At the Mbungo function, President Mugabe took the unusual step of denigrating not only his church but any other perceived as Western-controlled or non-indigenous. His uncle, the late Bishop Patrick Chakaipa who presided over his controversial marriage to Grace Marufu, must have turned in his grave to hear such anti-Catholic vitriol coming from a product of the very same church. In an attempt to rally support from Bishop Mutendi and his mainly rural followers, the president made some generous pledge of material support to the ZCC. While it is not wrong for anybody to support churches, it is totally unacceptable and immoral to do so with ulterior motives.

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Those who know Bishop Mutendi as I do, feel they have a duty and an obligation to advise him that he must be extremely circumspect as he is now about to tread on very slippery ground.

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ZANU PF, desperate as it currently is, will use anybody who is willing to be bribed with a few pieces of silver or a few acres of land. There are many influential people in our society both within and without the religious circles who were offered land and other inducements by the party in the past in a bid to buy their loyalty or silence. Those who were quick to see through the motive turned down such offers. The ambitious, greedy or gullible, blindly accepted what they thought were bonafide presents. Today, some of them are living in abject poverty, languishing in prison or simply neglected after they failed or refused to toe the party line later. ZANU PF generosity is never for free.

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Those who are close to the ZCC through fellowship, family relationships, geography or history, will remember that it is not too far from Mbungo where ZANU PF caused untold suffering, persecution, torture, murder and arson to the people of Zaka and Bikita during the 2008 election. In Jerera, some MDC activists were burnt beyond recognition while many homes were tortured in Bikita. Many of the people who listened to President Mugabe speak at Mbungo are likely to have relatives or neighbours that were victimised. One wonders what was going on in their minds when Mugabe was speaking as the pliant bishop nodded in agreement.

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Bishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, like many Catholic bishops in Zimbabwe, will go down in history as a man of God who remained consistent, unwavering, and unfearful in speaking out against injustice, human rights abuses and inequality. I remember very well that it was him who once spoke openly against President Mandela’s choice of dressing despite their very close working and historical relationship. This is the kind of consistency and openness that should characterise men and women of the cloth rather than be swayed by empty promises of material support.

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Bishop Kunonga, Madzibaba Nzira and many other spiritual leaders have become willing tools of oppression, violence and injustice. Some are busy joining the queue disguised as ant-sanctions crusaders. Let Bishop Mutendi derive some useful lessons from this. While still on history, I don’t know of many churches in Zimbabwe that contributed so immensely to the liberation struggle as the Catholic did despite the fact that most of the priests and nuns then were European. A good number were killed, persecuted or deported for such values.

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Also, I don’t know of any church in Zimbabwe that has a Commission for Justice and Peace other than the Catholic. For the President to hoodwink ZCC by attacking a church that has done a lot more for Zimbabwe than most is quite unfortunate. If the so-called Western-controlled churches can build hospitals and schools as well as sink boreholes across the length and breadth of our country and help the poor, then let us have more of those!

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May Bishop Mutenda revisit the stories of brutal kings such as Ahab, Herod and Pharaoh for him to understand the biblical context of my argument.

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chambokom@gmail.com

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