Monday, May 19, 2014

Let's acknowledge Men of the Cloth in Politics


One finds it very puzzling to hear some politicians say that politics is an area other sectors of society like the church should not be involved in – a very Zimbabwean outlook indeed.  Why is that so?  I am not in any way trying to push pastors into the fray. Perhaps history can enlighten us as to what has happened in the development of African politics and put the record straight.

In South Africa the first president of the ANC in 1912 was Rev John Langalibalele Dube of the Congregational Church in South Africa. The founder and first leader of the first political party, the Southern Rhodesia African National Congress (ANC), sometimes known as Bantu Congress in the 1930s, was the Rev TD Samkange of the Methodist Church. He was chosen president of the Bantu Congress in 1943.

They were fighting against racism whereby blacks were not allowed to enter shops but only buy their goods through windows. This was a precursor to future struggles.

Rev Ndabaningi Sithole founded, and was the chief architect of, ZANU in 1963 in conjunction with Herbert Chitepo, Robert Mugabe, Edgar Tekere in Enos Nkala’s Highfields house.  At a party congress in Gwelo, Sithole was elected president and appointed Mugabe as secretary general.  This does not necessarily mean that all these church leaders wanted to be presidents. They were chosen by the people to facilitate a process at a time when they were the most respected in African society.  Their role was to fight against racism on behalf of blacks. I am sure they did not even enjoy their role because of the risks involved then.

Some of the pastors who went into politics have had to experience a lot of mudslinging in the process because they wanted to be honest to their call as shepherds of the people . Our society is very good at character assassination, and this has happened to many and has been done with impunity.

The question I am asking is:  Should we let things go on like this, namely  that the capable people from among the clergy who want to exercise their role as shepherds and mediate in politics  be scared away because they get bullied in the process?

In the late seventies the Rev Andrew Majoni Ndhlela of the Methodist Church went both to Geneva and 
Lancaster House Conference offering chaplaincy to all parties at both meetings. Rev Ndhlela, Bishop Lamont of the Catholic and Bishop Skelton of the Anglican Church pioneered the formation of the Rhodesia Council of Churches (RCC) -now Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC) - in 1964 which clearly did not support the Smith regime. It was not easy for them to break away from a white dominated missionary council (called Rhodesian Conference of Churches). These clergy fought hard to send a clear message and convince the World Council of Churches (WCC) that it was necessary for the Church to support the liberation struggle.

A Desk to Combat Racism was established at WCC in Geneva, and Dr Nathan Shamuyarira was appointed to head that desk for some time. These were considerable efforts made by church leaders at the time. At home the Rev Herbert Chikomo of the Presbyterian Church became the first General Secretary of RCC.  Threats were made by the Smith regime to close the Council because it was supporting the war of liberation.

However, the Council continued its work unafraid and in 1967 formed  Christian Care as a social welfare arm which became a lifeline for the political detainees by paying fees for their children and providing food to their families. Political prisoners themselves were provided with fees to further their education.

What is surprising and rather absurd now is that the church is told to keep its hands off politics by the very beneficiaries who enjoyed church support when in detention.  They seem to have the misleading view that they have a monopoly of deciding what is right or wrong for people in this nation.   However, we are in it all of us. Politics affect everybody, and all citizens have a democratic right to have a say in their future. As a church we pray for our leaders, but we do not stop there. The church has the duty to look after those in leadership positions because of the crucial role they play in determining the future of this society.

Bishop Ralph Dodge of the United Methodist Church played a crucial role in sending Africans abroad for further education at a time it was treasonous to do so.  He passed on the baton to Bishop Abel Muzorewa who was also a beneficiary of such a scholarship. Whatever people may say about the late Bishop Muzorewa, he played the midwifery role to the birth of independence for Zimbabwe. As the only Prime Minister of Zimbabwe-Rhodesia, he was embroiled in many unpleasant things like all midwives go through. Zimbabwe-Rhodesia became the cross-over channel which then ushered in the independence that we enjoy now. As PM he had to give in to so many demands some of which compromised him. 

Prof. Rev Canaan Banana the former first President of Zimbabwe was instrumental in bringing together the two political parties ZANU and ZAPU in 1987. He later became a diplomat of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU). 

Indeed caterpillars are not allowed to use the roads they pioneer.  There will always be people who are very good at wanting to get all the credit. Most Zimbabweans who are close to either side of the 60 year age group fought the war of liberation in various ways. Admittedly, there were those who actually sold out, but these were in both camps. In the same vein there should be respect for this generation. No one looks down upon the role played by those who held guns. But as we all know there were many who jumped on the bandwagon of war that may have never carried any guns at all.  Sometimes these are the ones who make a lot of noise by way of compensation.

From 2003 Bishop Bakare of the Anglican Church, Bishop Mutume of the Catholic Church and Bishop Manhanga of the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe played yet another midwifery role as they shuttled between MDC and ZANU PF when there was a high degree of polorisation  between the two parties. All their efforts including those of the Christian Alliance, which subsequently chaired the Save Zimbabwe Campaign, made a contribution towards the Government of National Unity (GNU) that was eventually ushered in 2008.

We may have misgivings about the GNU but look at the Constitution.  A very difficult process indeed, but we now have a constitution which we as Zimbabweans are proud of. Then the economy of this country took a new turn. It should be the prayer of every Zimbabwean that the phase we are going through be handled with due consideration to all stakeholders so that we benefit from the vast resources this country is endowed with.

Corrupt officials should be held to account.  This is not the time to hide behind political factions while pushing agendas that destroy the nation. The GNU, in spite of its pitfalls, demonstrated that Zimbabweans can at least agree on a number of issues which took this nation forward. Clergy or layperson - we all have the duty to seriously consider our beautiful country first.  All efforts to restore our dignity should be the business of every Zimbabwean worthy of such a name.

Rev Dr Levee Kadenge

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Church's duty to Shepherd its Flock

The Zimbabwean Media has been awash of reports that Churches are mediating in the MDC-T squabbles and one thinks this is honourable. What is disturbing is that there are insinuations that it is not proper for the Church to shepherd its flock which are in dire straits.We read in one article Bishop Sebastian R. Bakare, Rev Dr Levee Kadenge and Rev. Useni Sibanda have been asked by opposition leaders to sort out their problems.

Should it be like that? It is the duty of shepherds to shepherd the flock. They do not have to be invited. When pastors wait to be invited when they know there is fire in a certain corner then they have lost their mandate. We want to believe that the above mentioned church leaders are taking their role as church leaders serious when they choose to play a mediating role. Their mandate is an inherent part of their vocation and does not need to be given to them by anyone. “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and the needy.” (Proverbs 31 v 8-9)

The danger in most congregations is that people are going to churches for mass prayers. They jump and forget for a moment the issues that the nation is facing. A spiritually given need to jump is as good as a dose of opium. Zimbabweans should ask what is their mission in a situation where there is no tolerance, no justice and no peace. We need leaders who do not take religion as an opium of the people. Very few Zimbabwean Christian leaders believe in the values of the gospels which are justice, peace, love, care for one another and reconciliation. If we do not preach about this we have lost it.

Christ was concerned about the daily needs of the people. Look at Him, he cared for the needs of people. Some people are afraid of preaching the gospel of change which was the benchmark of Jesus. What we need are Christian men and women of courage. People now thrive in corruption. There is chaos in Zimbabwe. We complain of police harassment and who is preaching against this? We are busy preaching about the peripheral. The prophets of today are preaching a comfortable gospel.

Zimbabwe is full of people like those watching a football match. If they see a handball they start making noise. Give them the ball to kick a penalty they will shoot it in the wrong direction. Zimbabweans claim to know a lot but know very little . They criticize others and yet do nothing. Show the small contribution that you are making. Not to condemn what others are doing. This is our time. We have to do the little we can do, and God will do the rest.

The ruling Party ZANU PF, the opposition MDC-T and others should not be denied pastoral care. Pastors are shepherds of all and sundry. And no one should tell them where to go and where not to go. It is a noble idea for Christian leaders worthy their call to try to find solutions when people are not in agreement. Unless pastors show the way-who can? What lacks in Zimbabwe are Christian leaders with courage to stand up for what they believe.

Some of the disturbing headlines say that the Church is organizing the opposition to topple the ruling ZANU PF government. What does this mean other than inciting for intervention of the ruling party so that the men and women of the cloth are stopped from doing their work. If political leaders refuse help from their shepherds we are instructed to wash our feet and leave.

The Shona people have a saying that chisingaperi chinoshura (everything has an end). What is permanent in life is change. All these political parties will one day have their day. This is what we pastors should know and tell people. We feel sorry for some who think they are there to stay forever as parties. Such people need pastoral counseling. For one day they will be shocked to death when what they thought was everlasting crumbling like a deck of cards. +History has taught us that those living in glass houses should not throw stones at others. Whoever has an organization or a party should know that it is a question of one’s turn of having squabbles.

What are factions if not sources of squabbles. There are even factions in families, in Churches and in the community. Church leaders should always be prepared for intervention. The Gospel of pretense that has been preached should be discarded. People are bombarded with the gospel of prosperity as if to say that that is the whole gospel. There is daylight robbery going on in this nation whereby people are robbed of their hard earned moneys in the name of riches and prosperity to come in the name of the gospel. The Church should speak openly against this daylight theft.

We need to preach against corruption that even some of our leaders including the president has been very much against. The media has on this score has been forthcoming on exposing the glaring corruption in the nation. Most service arms including the police, many service providers are demanding bribes for something that should be done freely. We are yet to listen to sermons preached against these practices.

What legacy are we living as men and women who are living at this critical time of our nation? Our grand children will ask, “Papa, what did you do when there was chaos? What was your contribution? I hear that people are saying there is corruption, what are you doing Papa?” Unless people are doing something they might as well shut up.


Rev Dr Levee Kadenge