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The clergy must be allowed space in politics

There is this fallacy pushed into our minds by some of our African leaders who pontificate that the church should not be involved in politics. They are saying Christians should not be participants. The irony of the matter is that those who say that are devout members of the same faith. The agenda of these leaders is to narrow down the numbers of competent leaders who are capable of taking us from our doldrums. They nevertheless need the Christians’ prayers and votes.

the Bornwell Chakaodza column by Rev Dr Levee Kadenge

They make it appear as if they are the only ones who are destined to rule. This is buttressed by this idea of liberation movements across Africa ganging up to maintain their grip on power in their respective countries. As a result, we are frightened into our corners of submission such that we do not dare involve ourselves lest we face the consequences meted out on those who trespassed into the prohibited area. Politics becomes their sacred space.

Let it be clear that the idea of scaring the church is a ploy to rule out formidable competition from so many talented people across the religious divide. Those who dissuade others are actually charlatans who are bent on pushing an agenda of elimination by substitution. Politics, they have declared, is their turf. Yet politics is everyone’s game. As long as we are human beings, we are by that virtue, political animals. Every creation on earth involves itself in politics in one way or another.

The sad thing is that we have tended to believe this lie and propaganda. The game that is played is that as soon as those capable Christians, some who maybe priests, bishops etc talk politics they become targets and are threatened with phrases like “if you want to join politics, come in the arena and we take off our gloves and fight it out.”
This kind of attitude forces many potential candidates to shy away from involvement in politics. Yet the politicians will visit many religious groups, especially African initiated/independent churches to canvass for votes.

What they want are votes. These leaders have become experts in using others and not wanting them to take leadership roles. Africa becomes the poorer because our leaders want to monopolise politics and make it their only preserve against any other new comers who want to venture into politics. We have seen that most of those brave Christian leaders who have dared go into the ring are either blackmailed or worse things like character assassination happen to them. Such is the scourge of Africa. 

What our leaders have done is to make politics appear dirty by being divisive so as to dominate.  Then they invite us to come in and play the dirty game with them.  It seems it is deliberate to make politics appear like a dirty game.  The worst thing is that we have also accepted that politics should be made dirty.  The word politics is derived from the Latin word polis meaning human affairs.

The emphasis that they fought for independence has been employed by our leaders as a propaganda tool to cow the populace into believing their lie that it is only them that are ordained to rule. There is no school one should go to for them to qualify for presidency. The various African leaders have come from different professions and some from none.  Our own president was a teacher. The recently installed leader of Gambia, Adama Barrow, was a security guard when he was studying in the United Kingdom. Name them one by one and none of them even went to a school of political science.

The best leaders in the history of politics are those who have people at heart. Africa’s iconic leader Nelson Mandela was a president only for a term and relinquished office. So we are not short of examples. In Tanzania, we have had several presidents passing on the button to younger generations. There is, therefore, no excuse because some leaders whom we all agree have been exemplary are there for Africa to showcase.

The tragedy of African politics is that those who come into office take it as a life career that must take them to the grave.  Perhaps to entice them into retirement, why can’t the continent come up with packages that attract the leadership of this continent to move on and leave space for others. The Ibrahim Fund which was instituted by an Arabic tycoon to reward good African leadership is a step in the right direction.

It is normally towards elections that our leaders up the game of propaganda to make it appear as if it is impossible to get into politics.  Hats off to those Christian leaders who have dared delve into politics. The late Bishop Abel Muzorewa and the likes of the late Canaan Banana were such giants who have not been recognised as pillars of African politics.  They have been denigrated simply because they were seen as potential threats to the current leadership.

I have written elsewhere that Muzorewa was the “midwife” of Zimbabwean Independence. He had to be involved in the Zimbabwe-Rhodesia interim government, not that it was the best option, but for the sake of transitioning power from Europeans to Africans. such an arrangement had to be there to get us where we finally ended at.

It should be understood that the architect of politics is God himself.  When he created human beings, he arranged that they be ruled directly by himself through the provision of religious leaders. It was until the people of Israel complained to God that they wanted to have kings like other nations. God was very clear to Samuel, the priestly ruler of the nation of Israel at the time that by virtue of the people complaining that they wanted a king, they were rejecting Him.

God gave in and begrudging asked Samuel to anoint Saul with the clear indication that he would be the worst ruler ever. Indeed, Saul did not follow God’s instructions and he abandoned Him. To rescue his children God asked Samuel to anoint David even when Saul was still king. In a sense, we can say God staged the first bloodless coup in the history of nations. A leading local scholar Rev Dr Kennedy Gondongwe said on a radio programme recently that “the master politician is God himself and his son Jesus was almost a politician”.

Jesus was indeed the politician par excellence when he declared at the beginning of his ministry that, “The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of the sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” (Luke 4: 18-19).

Christ, however, rose above such humanly expectations and instead chose to up his liberation mantra higher by choosing to liberate humanity from all other ills, including forgiving sin which no one except him alone could do. 

He still remains the liberator par-excellence. Jesus recused himself from worldly politics but ordained all who dare care for his creation to participate with his blessings. 

Let those with ears hear!

*As The Standard celebrates 20 years, it pays tribute to the late Bornwell Chakaodza who was editor of the paper from 2002 to 2005.

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