Churches press for reforms to avoid a post-Mugabe Zimbabwe of dysfunction




Rev. Dr Kenneth Mtata, general secretary of the Zimbabwe Council of Churches. Image: ZCC

AS ZIMBABWEANS woke up on Wed­nesday morning to a post-Mugabe era, the general secretary of the Zimbabwe Council of Churches, the Revd Dr Kenneth Mtata, called on the country to address the “deeper issues” that had created “dysfunc­tion” for the past 20 years.

Mr Mugabe resigned on Tuesday evening, nearly one week after a military intervention to curtail his four-decade-long reign.

On Wednesday morning, Dr Mtata, a Lutheran pastor, wrote on Facebook: “The last 15 months have been dramatic and yesterday we reached the climax with the resigna­tion of the president. But Zimbab­weans have more deeper issues to address if we are not going to return to the dysfunction of the last 20 years or so.”

A “National People’s Conven­tion” would convene at the HICC Rainbow Towers in Harare on Friday, he wrote, to “map out the journey into the future”.

“The Church needs to contribute to reimagining the future Zimbabwe we all want. Our God who has gone before us in the past will lead us as we take this new journey into the future. We pray for the People’s Conventions!”

About 650 to 1000 delegates from the churches, civil society, busi­ness, academia, and the trade unions will take part in the conven­tion.

No political parties have been invited, but the convention intends to look at ways in which to move forward to rebuild a country that has been ravaged by 37 years of Mugabe’s authoritarian rule.

Shortly after the military inter­ven­tion, on Wednesday of last week, the Zimbabwe Heads of Christian De-
nom­inations called in a state­ment for five actions: prayer, calm and peace, respect for human dig­nity, a transitional government of national unity, and a national dialogue.

The convention is being called as a result of the plea for a national dialogue. “The current situation gives us an opportunity to reach out to each other . . . We are in a new situation. But our shared future will only be realised through dialogue,” the statement said.

The Zimbabwean church leaders are a powerful group, representing the Zimbabwe Council of Churches, the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Con­ference, and the Evangelical Fel­low­ship of Zimbabwe. After decades of division, the Churches have demonstrated a united front during the past ten days. They con­sulted, issued joint statements, and last Friday made a joint call for daily prayers to be said every day. During many of the protests last weekend, people paused to pray.

Religious leaders have been at the forefront of Zimbabwe’s protest move­ment during the past year. Many people united around Pastor Evan Mawarire, who started the hashtag #ThisFlag on social media with a series of YouTube videos to condemn Zimbabwe’s high unem­ploy­ment, acute cash shortages, and widespread corruption. He was forced to flee to South Africa before returning and being imprisoned. He is currently on bail.

Writing on Twitter, under pic­tures of him in handcuffs and addressing a mass prayer rally last weekend, Pastor Mawarire said: “You could never have convinced me that one day I’d find myself in any of these two completely differ­ent positions. The last two years have been worth it, arrested 5 times, spent 22 days in prison, 19 court appearances, passport taken, not seen family in 11 months, I’m still on bail, I persevered.”

The Zimbabwean church leaders have received strong support from church leaders around the world.

The Archbishop of Cape Town, Dr Thabo Makgoba, wrote on Twitter on Tuesday night, as news of Mr Mugabe’s resignation spread to neighbouring South Africa: “Con­tinue to uphold Zimbabweans in prayer at this time of transition. Pray for all involved, the military, president Mugabe and Family and his cabinet and especially for ongoing peace and stability.”

The general secretaries of the World Council of Churches and the Lutheran World Federation, Dr Olav Fykse Tveit and the Revd Martin Junge respectively, also offered words of support to the Zimbabwean church leaders.

The national director of World Vision Zimbabwe, Emmanuel Isch, said on Wednesday: “We stand with Zimbabwe at this time of change, and hope that the international community will step up to partner with the people to improve the lives of children and their families. . . World Vision hopes the period of political transition will be one of peace, tranquillity and unity.

“The country is filled with hope at the possibility for the kinds of change that will bring economic im­­prove­ment and development and a brighter future for children and youth.” – Church Times