Church and Politics are like water and oil

Emmanuel Murema- Correspondent

Not so long ago, the media was awash with the Catholic Bishops’ letter and the response from the Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services.

The letter by Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference on what they purported to be the prevailing situation aroused mixed feelings among Zimbabweans. Whoever was referred to as those who thought they have arrived and those on road, only served to widen the schism between the Government and the anti-Government forces. Was the Catholic Bishops’ letter a direct hit on government?

Could that have been the intention of the clergymen to aggravate the discord, the letter left a lot to be desired. To some, it reminded them of Bishop Abel Muzorewa. Could the church have joined the bandwagon of a much-talked about regime change agenda.

Where does the church stand in the Zimbabwean social, economic, political and cultural spheres. Was the aftermath furore aroused because of the history of the church especially the Catholic, having been effectively viewed with its association to continental controversies which among others include its meddling in politics?

In DRC during the recent election, it almost, if not actually announced a false election result. In Rwanda, the church was associated with the famous 100 days which saw the killing of an estimated one million Tutsi and moderate Hutus. What could have triggered outrage from the Government, when the Catholic Bishops made public its disinclination to what they rhetorically purported as those who have arrived and those on the road.

Generally, the statement carries some sarcastic connotations, perhaps deliberately intended at belittling the history of the liberation. Could this statement be viewed as a deliberate intent by the bishops to belittle or trivialize the nationalist project, which was the corner stone of the liberation war.

Has the past become so frivolous and or irrelevant to the point that there is no longer a circumscription for the people who subscribe to the history and the liberation ideology. Perhaps the bishops took advantage of a polarized society to exhibit their aversion of the setting or was it a manifestation of a way to settle a long unsettled score?

In the greater part of the letter, the church speaks of situations bedeviling the nation. It is common cause that everyone talks of the corruption when they are describing the extent and nature of the Zimbabwean situation. Skepticism is only aroused when one deliberately skips the narrative of sanctions.

Sanctions talk is often a sacred talk to those that are anti-Government. This is, however, not intended to cloud seed suspicion on the intentions of the perhaps good bishops. Every time when one wants to gain popular support in Zimbabwe, they have to be silent about sanctions and loud about corruption. That guarantees your broad social media support. Could this have been the strategy which was employed by the good bishops?

The Bishops quotes Micah, and also talks of journalists who they say have been exposing corruption. Rhetorically, the part narrates about ungodliness of leaders and amassing wealth for personal gains. Was this a deliberate character assassination of those they referred to as Government and leaders? Can this be a strategy to bring someone to the negotiation tables? Politico-religious stancemanship was at work, a deliberate intention to gain popular support. Who knows, the bishops probably had good intentions.

The bishops then narrated the history of the Heroes and Defense forces day. The deliberate mention of the fact that the leaders are taking us back to war times, appears to be a calculated strategy to set an agenda or to create an inconsistence in the liberation narrative or the nationalist project as something which instead of uniting people have created an antagonistic ideology among those who supposedly should cherish it. Conceivably, the good intentions of uniting people by the bishops could have been misread.

The bishops perhaps had honesty intentions, to unite the people, but probably misread, perchance this marks a dawning of a new era in political engagement circles where political intentions are religiously sanitized to gain popular support. Zimbabweans are generally religious people; religious personalities can be fitting candidates to be fronted in propagating agendas. But will this save the most needed and awaited nation building and unifying the population or we are going to see the new emerging strategy of disuniting an already polarized state.

Following the release of the Catholic bishops’ letter, it was preceded by solidarity messages from like-minded organizations, until the other organisations distanced themselves from the purported position of the church. If the letter had the good intentions of bringing the nation to dialogue or uniting the people, then the plan misfired and only widened the schism and deepened the shafts of polarisation in Zimbabwe.

The church houses people of different political and social affiliations, thus, the position it takes should be such that it unites the flocks. The church should be at the fore in calling for peaceful coexistence and dialogue.

With no shred of doubt, Zimbabwean lives matter, but when a supposedly universal position deliberately omit a narrative that has systematically impoverished and alienated Zimbabwe from the global economic front, one is left with doubts. An anecdote on sanctions could have neutralized the mixed feeling, which the bishops’ letter hoisted. Not so unusual, the Catholic bishops, sided with compensation of white farmers. Perhaps after having disagreed with every government strategy, there is a convenient cause for them to support compensation of former white farmers.

A formal presentation properly presented to the intended recipients could have spared the controversy that emanated from either a misrepresentation, misconception, mispositioning, misinterpretation that followed the bishop’s letters.

EMMANUEL MUREMA is a Peace Activist and Political Analyst

Founder of the Great Zimbabwe Peace and Conflict Initiative

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