HARARE – First Lady Grace Mugabe’s interface rally for the various apostolic sects in Zimbabwe has divided the clergy with the various church groups frantically trying to take charge of tomorrow’s function set for Rufaro Stadium in Mbare.
By Fungi Mawarire
The event has widened the rift between the Apostolic Churches Council of Zimbabwe (ACCZ) and the newly-formed Zimbabwe Amalgamated Churches’ Council (ZACC), which are both mobilising their members to attend the rally in their numbers.
Both organisations want to be in charge of tomorrow’s programme, which gives the ruling Zanu PF party an opportunity to assess its popularity among members of the sect.
With the clock ticking towards make-or-break 2018 polls, Zanu PF has gone a gear up with its mass mobilisation drive.
The apostolic sect has been the party’s favourite hunting ground. In the run up to any important election, Zanu PF politicians are known for trooping to church services convened by the various sects to win their hearts and minds.
One of the most enduring images remain that of President Robert Mugabe, beamed on national television in 2010 while donning white garments and holding a sacred knobkerrie at a Johane Marange shrine.
Zanu PF’s affinity for the sect has resulted in church leaders falling over each other to ingratiate themselves with the party’s leadership.
Tomorrow’s rally has stoked tensions between Archbishop Johannes Ndanga’s ACCZ and ZACC, under the leadership of Jimayi Muduvuri – a former Zanu PF central committee member.
Muduvuri, who had earlier announced that his group was organising its own interface with the first lady at the Zimbabwe Grounds in Highfield later in the month, is now in the thick of things, mobilising ZACC members to attend Grace’s interface rally at Rufaro Stadium.
“We are organising transport and other logistics to help our members to travel to Harare for this interface. All churches are united, we want everyone to attend,” Muduvuri told the Daily News yesterday.
Politicians are also stampeding to organise the same event, with Zanu PF’s Harare provincial political commissar Shadreck Mashayamombe running around to invite churches to the rally, while the minister of Sport, Recreation, Arts and Culture Makhosini Hlongwane has also been inviting churches to attend the meeting.
Both politicians have dispatched separate letters, inviting Ndanga and his members to attend the interface rally.
Makhosini wrote: “An invitation is being made to you and your entire congregation to an interface meeting with …the First Lady…Amai G.N Mugabe. This is an opportunity for the indigenous churches to interact with the first lady and share your views and opinions on the development of the church. Your attendance at this interface will be greatly appreciated.”
Mashayamombe told the Daily News yesterday that the rally will only be open to like-minded persons.
“It’s going on, we are on the ground right now, all the apostolic churches are invited, and we only want the churches that we invited, Zion and vapositori. We might leave out some churches if we feel that they have contrary views and cannot add value to the meeting,” he said.
This comes at a time when ACCZ has endorsed Mugabe as its preferred presidential candidate for the 2018 polls.
At an elective congress held in Bulawayo last week, ACCZ also appointed Mugabe and his wife as its patron and matron.
Ndanga said they did not appoint the first couple to be patron and matron because they were members of Zanu PF, but because they are the president and first lady of the country, adding it was not him but the provinces which made this decision.
“The provinces met, deliberated and agreed to endorse the president as their candidate of choice.
“They believe Mugabe is the suitable candidate as long as God continues to give him breath – it is not age that kills but God,” said Ndanga.
The first family takes over from former vice president Joice Mujuru who was booted out of government and Zanu PF in 2014.
Ndanga said when Mujuru was fired from her post, they suffered a huge backlash, with some alleging the ACCZ was an appendage of the former vice president.
He said Mujuru’s appointment had been on account of her post in government and nothing more.
“We appointed her because she had been appointed to the vice president post by Mugabe, but after the fallout we also decided to break ranks with her.
“This time we decided to settle with the first family so as to avoid a situation where we appoint someone who will be short-lived (in their position) after being dismissed. The first family will always be there,” said Ndanga.
Ndanga added that Mugabe was surrounded by pretenders who pretend to be with him during the day and yet plot his ouster behind the scenes.
“They lie to him that they still want him to lead when in actual fact they do not and are busy fighting for his post. But we have endorsed him and we urge him to pray to God,” said Ndanga.
Notwithstanding Zanu PF’s association with the apostolic faith, Mugabe rarely hides his dislike for self-seeking prophets.
Speaking at the burial of national hero Don Muvuti, at the National Heroes Acre of Wednesday, Mugabe mocked his senior lieutenants who flock to prophets seeking political ‘‘prophecies’’, especially ahead of next year’s general elections.
“We want proper pastors who serve God and not those that seek to use God to extort money from the people. I hear that in some churches, they fill drums with money and I wonder how they manage to fill those drums because our people are always crying out to say we do not have money, but when a pastor comes along all of you will one day get rich, people accept that, it’s a lie. You pastor, first enrich yourself and stop bringing buckets into church to take money from people,” he thundered.
He then took a swipe at top Zanu PF officials who engage prophets to get oracles about their political futures.
“Some go to these prophets seeking to hear if they will remain in their positions or they will be upgraded with elections coming. The pastors will always be ready for such people and when they come, they are told you shall become the vice president.
“Someone is told that he will inherit the throne when the president is gone. The prophet will claim he sees you in his visions getting the presidency and then you go around in pride saying I will be the Zanu PF leader, oh, what kind of people are we? Is our education working?
“Some are threatened by the prophets that within a week, they would be destroyed and this strikes great fear in them and they end up submitting to the prophets’ demands,” Mugabe said, attracting laughter from the crowds.
Last year, State Security minister Kembo Mohadi torched a social media storm when a video of him attending controversial Malawian preacher, Shepherd Bushiri’s church service where he was told he was destined for higher political office.