THE STRUGGLE FOR DEMOCRACY IN ZIMBABWE: RISKY BUSINESS
The following is an interview which I withheld its publication because I was not convinced the intention of the interviewer was genuine at the time. I have now decided that it be published because the assignment I was given to write on Political Participation in Zimbabwe requires that I bring out how those Christian leaders who dared involve in issues that really affected people were misrepresented by the local media. I was one of those who was demonized and given names. Titles like “Churches must be apolitical: Mugabe”(1); “Clergymen arrested, quizzed over ‘new party’ ”(2); “Zimbabwe should apologise to Britain: Kadenge”(3); “Bishop Kadenge singing for his supper”(4); “Bishop accused of using church facilities for political activities”(5); “Kadenge splits Methodist Church”(6), were among many published in local dailies. These headlines were designed to make me and my colleagues in the struggle for democracy to look like partisan politicians and not faithful ministers. To be safe, one had to keep quiet. Those of us who spoke out were made to feel isolated and outcasts. So one had to risk being involved in issues of bread and butter for the society or you left things to fate. I chose to follow the example of Jesus, the Christ – identified with the suffering masses and became the voice of the marginalized.
Interview Questions (02 11 2006)
By Caesar Zvayi
Features and Political Editor
Question: The Reverend Bishop Levee Kadenge, so many things have been written and said about you but our readers may want to know from the horse’s mouth, who really is Levee Kadenge?
Answer: I am a simple child of God who feels called to do His work. I was born in 1953 in Chivhu. I have a very strong rural background. I am a reverend in the Methodist Church in Zimbabwe. I am also currently the bishop of Harare West District.
I have been a student of religion for more than 27 years. I am privileged to have been educated by the Church which has seen me go through six degrees and several undergraduate and post graduate certificates. I studied theology at the following universities; University of South Africa (UNISA), Bristol University, Aberdeen University, Edinburgh University (non-graduating Student), University of Kwazulu Natal and University of Zimbabwe. I attained a doctorate degree (D.Phil.) at UZ in 1998 and was caped by His Excellency the President R.G. Mugabe. I have studied African Traditional Religion extensively and I am a consultant in that area.
I sit on a number of boards and chair some of them. I am an accomplished peasant/small scale farmer. I am actually a member of the Zimbabwe Farmers’ Union ZFU. I major in small grains particularly rapoko (zviyo) and groundnuts. I keep cattle, goats and chickens (free runners). My home and my neighbor’s were recommended for agricultural show in the last agricultural year. My neighbor is a senior professional agriculturalist.
I have been a critical social analyst since 1985. I have written more than 400 published and unpublished articles mainly for the Herald and Sunday Mail particularly for the famous “As I see it” column during the time of Charles Chikerema’s editorship of the later paper until his death in 1998. I actually write on a daily basis. I have “mountains” of unpublished material which are my reflections on social challenges in the context of creating a democratic space.
I say all the above information in humility and appreciation of what God has blessed me with. I take all this as nothing. What I treasure most is my call to do God’s work.
I am married to Maybe and we have 3 children and one grandson. My wife is a nurse by profession. She is working at home full time. My wife is my greatest admirer and supporter like I also do to her.
Question: As religious leader, what is your perspective on the relationship between the Church and State?
Answer: The Church and State are two institutions; one religious and the other secular. They are two arms of authority. They both service the people. In my view they complement each other. The State represents temporary/earthly powers while the Church represents everlasting authority derived from God. While the State derives its authority from people the Church takes its power from God. Good governments are approved by God, but bad governments are a result of mankind’s selfishness.
Question: You are the Convener of the Christian Alliance CA that has taken an adversarial position to the initiative by Heads of Christian Denominations HCOD who resolved to engage rather that confront the Government on the way forward. How do you reconcile that to the religious leader’s role as arbiter in society?
Answer: First there is a spokesperson for CA. Had it not been of the accusations leveled against me I was not going to speak about CA? The views that follow are my own. It is not true that Christian Alliance has taken an adversarial attitude towards HOCD initiative of the New Vision Document NVD. My view is that the NVD is a response to our initiative of bringing Zimbabweans together to discuss the crisis we are faced with. And we are happy that HOCD has come to life and they are doing what they are doing. What is happening is that the NVD has come in handy at a time when several initiatives are needed because the present task and that ahead of us needs many approaches. While the HOCD is working closely with the government the CA is working with the civil society and all other political parties except the ruling party because even after our invitation to it to come and discuss our crisis it did not honour the invitation.
Invitations to all leaders of political parties were sent out for the Save Zimbabwe Convention which was held on 29 July 2006 at the Rainbow Towers grounds. Unfortunately the ruling party did not come. Our idea, as CA, was to bring together all Zimbabwean leaders of political parties, civil society and Church leaders. Though there were so many Christians who came from Zimbabwe Council of Churches ZCC, Zimbabwe Catholics Bishops Conference ZCBC and Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe EFZ. These branches were not officially represented in spite of the invitations we sent them. Look, we were really hoping that everyone invited could have come and the outcome of that meeting would have been different from what has transpired. CA is a catalyst movement. We are just there to facilitate for peaceful social change for the good of all. We are a group of men and women of God who feel called by God to help solve the crisis in a peaceful manner through prophetic witness. We are ordinary prophets who speak without fear or favor. Those who think that CA speaks against them have something to hide.
Question: Your Church, the Methodist Church in Zimbabwe falls under the purview of the Zimbabwe Council of Churches that was also part to the vision document – the Zimbabwe We Want. How do you reconcile the CA, that many say was formed to oppose the Heads of Christian Denominations initiative, and your membership of the Church which is party to the initiative?
Answer: First CA was not formed to oppose HOCD initiative. We came into being when the Church was so quiet and silent about the crisis in this country. It is only when we came into being that the HOCD came alive and we are happy about that development. Our hope is that one day we will work together. We have been called a ‘fringe’ group by some members of the HOCD and we are happy about that description. The scriptures are very clear, “where two or three are gathered I am there” says the Lord. We are children of the HOCD and one cannot tell his/her parents how to describe their children. Children accept any description given by their parents. We are their products. It is said that Karl Max was a child of the Church and Capitalism. Had they brought him well he was not going to adopt Communism. Had the HOCD been speaking like they are doing now we would not have been born as CA. But now that they have given birth to us they have to kill us like what other parents have done to their children or will have to carry the ‘burden’. They will have to live with us as their product. We respect the HOCD. If we have said untoward things about them we are sorry. This is only a phase and soon we will be working together. That is our prayer. I am sure they also want to work together with us. It is only when we join hands that we will be true shepherds. As it is now, we need to put our house in order.
My membership of ZCC is not negotiable or compromised. All the CA members are either members of ZCC, EFZ or ZCBC. I take the three above denominational groupings as having formed a broad alliance to work out our crisis. If we join the NVD we will be a broader alliance and that will be great. We are ready to join them but the question is, are they prepared to accept us. We maybe prodigal sons and we need to be accepted as such. We will always want to be treated as children who can also think for themselves. The challenge is whether we can be accepted as we are, because what we are doing as CA is part of the Great Commission.
We are not in opposition, competition or parallel to the HOCD. I see ourselves as complementing HOCD initiative. We complement them and they do the same to us. My prayer is that one day or very soon we will be working together. On our part we are ready to work together with them.
Question: Aren’t your activities in the CA dividing the Church along political lines, I am reminded here of one article you wrote in The Sunday Mail on October 4 1998, in which you said “divisions within Christianity allow for the percolation of the satanic movement into the religious arena?
Answer: Caesar, who said we are political or we are politicians? Why can you not accept the way people describe themselves? You are a journalist and that is what you call yourself. We are a Christian organization and this is what we want to be known as. The problem I see is that you say we are not what we say we are. What authority are you using to describe us in the fashion you are doing? We will not be politicians because our call does not allow that. We feel the urge to work in God’s vineyard and nowhere else. We are prepared to denounce injustice, repression and subjugation of ordinary citizens without fear or favour. If it hurts others, tough luck!
On divisions within the Church you are right division cause the devil to come in. As I see it there is no division. It is a question of different initiatives being taken. The HOCD say in their document that there is unity in diversity. Look at what is happening within the three groups of Churches. They have joined together for a purpose but they have not destroyed their independence. They are one on this purpose and I am sure they will be working together in many other areas. That is unity in diversity they have called for. I pray for the day when we will be appreciated and we will be an added partner to the broader ecumenical movement.
Question: Still on divisions in the Church. There are reports that your political activities have seriously divided the Methodist Church in Zimbabwe’s Harare District, amid reports that you are victimizing people believed to be sympathetic to ZANU PF and those opposed to the CA by transferring them to parishes outside your district, your comments on that?
Answer: You continue to talk about my political activities. I am not involved in party politics. If CA was to move to becoming a political party that is the day I will leave it. I am a member of the Zimbabwe National Pastors Conference ZNPC and my well known message to members who are all over the country is “never join party politics. You will actually be reducing yourself by joining a political party. A pastor should be above party politics.” If there are people who you are saying are accusing me that I am dividing the Church because of my participation in politics they should come open if they are Christians. A true Christian should not be anonymous. Hiding one’s identity shows that one is being hypocritical. A Christian should just be open despite the consequences. That is the mark of a Christian. Jesus Christ did not hide his identity, why should we? That is not being Christian.
The question of divisions is news to me. My prayer is that if there is something like that because of me then people should come forward as Christians and just tell me in my eyes and I will act accordingly.
Question: What of reports that you are being used by the MDC to convert amenable Church Leaders to its regime change agenda, they say you are the point man in the party’s attempt to get control of strategic institutions?
Answer: That is not true. I just wonder where you get that information. Like I said before the CA intention was to have all political parties coming together. The 29 July Save Zimbabwe Convention was my first encounter with many of the opposition political leaders. What strategic institutions are you talking about? In my opening remarks at the Save Zimbabwe Convention I said that “we are not here to delegate political power or enter into politics.” Whoever is monitoring my movement and activities must approach me personally and sit down and talk so that he/she is very clear about what we are doing. There is no need to spy on me. I am very harmless and very approachable. I/we have nothing to hide. I am just living my faith. Inspector Mapuranga with other two senior officers from the Law and Order Section, Harare Central Police Station interviewed me in August this year for one and half hours and I thought I had answered all their questions satisfactorily. He however informed me that my activities had been and would be monitored. If those who are monitoring me want to know anything they are very free to approach me personally and not just speculate. Why do they have to avoid me. Let them come in the open. We are all Zimbabwean. No one is more Zimbabwean than me. I am a patriotic citizen.
Question: You convened the Save Zimbabwe convention on July 29, at which opposition parties resolved to unite into a Broad Alliance with a view to fielding one presidential candidate. Aren’t such activities ultra vires provisions of the Deed of the Church Order and Standing Orders of 1997 that debars Church leaders from active politics?
Answer: Yes we convened the Save Zimbabwe Convention on 29 July where we invited all political parties and civil society groups and Churches. It is not true that we formed a broad alliance to choose one leader. We see ourselves as a catalyst organization which only exists to help people to lead themselves. Once our task is over we move on. The Prophetic actions which we take are in line with Biblical principles of peaceful actions and activities. The Standing Orders of the Methodist Church you are quoting do not forbid what I am saying, but what you are saying which I am not doing. When are you going to accept people as what they are say they do and not describe them as you perceive them? I am sure you would not want me to accuse you of what you are not doing. So learn to be professional in your journalism. Stick to your ethics, don’t be partisan.
Question: You have also been accused of preaching anti-Government sermons at Mabelreign Parish where you are based, contrary to Section 3 of the Deed of the Church Order that says “no minister or preacher is to preach party politics from the pulpit,” your comments?
Answer: I am really surprised that you say I preach party politics. When I preach I pray about it and ask God for guidance and what follows is what I would have been inspired to do. No one has ever come to me to complain. On the day in question many people came to me congratulating me for such a challenging sermon. Perhaps those who had come for other reasons other than worship might have not really taken the message as it was. Yes I know there are people who come to church services I conduct to investigate whether I am preaching politics. And surely they have every right to interpret in the way they like and that is their baby. For me I will not stoop so low as to preach party politics. I have never joined a political party in my life. I voted in 1979. I was subsequently forced to buy a political party (ZANU PF) card in 1983 while I was ministering at Ndolwane in Matebeleland when all the villagers were required to buy ruling party cards. I remember traveling 100 kilometers to Plumtree just to go and buy that card.
Question: You recently shocked many when you were quoted saying Zimbabwe should apologize, not the other way round. Can you shed light on such sentiments?
Answer: I did not know that I shocked people when I said Zimbabwe should apologize to Britain. As a Christian apologising is a way of life. I was misrepresented. I am sure the writer was on a mission to tarnish my name. What I did say was that the British should first come and apologise for first taking the land from our ancestors and after that we also should apologise for the way we took back our land. I support land reform in a big way. I did not say we should apologise for taking land but for the way we did it. You do not lose anything by apologising. Actually you gain a lot by doing so. Once you have apologised you are now in charge. If you apologise you disarm your enemy and he/she is now in your hands. Refusing to apologise makes your task difficult. The Lord’s Prayer teaches us to apologise and to forgive.
Question: Coming to the National Vision Document, I know you were opposed to the whole initiative, but what are your impressions of the document?
Answer: I have not been opposed to the National Vision Document. We welcome the initiative which has been long overdue. Anyway coming late as it has done does not make it useless. At least the Church is now talking and I am so happy. My prayer is that the Church remains focused and not be detracted from fighting for justice by those who hold a political sword.
Question: How could CA have gone about the process?
Answer: All the things in the NVD are what we already have. We are praying that the sooner Zimbabweans start dialoguing the better for the nation. There is no need to fight unless we want to keep what we do not deserve. You destroy your enemy by loving them and not by fighting them. Once you love an enemy they cease to be one. I would have thought the right approach was to consult people first before presenting the document. That is my opinion which may be disputed by others. In a free society people are entitled to their own opinions. In this country we are forced to think alike – but that is just impossible. Thank you. God bless.
1 Karonga, Tinofa, “Churches must be apolitical: Mugabe,” Daily Mirror, 26 June 2006, Harare, page 1.
2 Dongozi, Foster, “Clergymen arrested, quizzed about ‘new party’,” The Standard, 6 August 2006, page 1.
3 Mangwende, Brain, “Zimbabwe should apologise to Britain: Kadenge,” Daily Mirror, 26 September 2006, page 1.
4 Comment (Voice of Mirror), “Bishop Kadenge Singing for his Supper,” Daily Mirror, 27 September 2006, page 10.
5 Zvayi, Caesar, “Bishop accused of using church facilities for political activities,” The Herald, Harare, 30 October 2006, page 2.
6 Harare Bureau, “Kadenge Splits Methodist Church,” Chronicle, Bulawayo, 30 October 2006. page 2.