Why is it that towards every election our nation is gripped with immense fear yet around 80% of our people claim to be Christian? While there is much talk about state capture by powerful individuals, like what has happened in South Africa by the Gupta family, the church in Zimbabwe has been captured by the state.
By Rev Dr Levee Kadenge
There is no plausible reason why a whole nation should be held to ransom by a single family. For the church to be captured by a state shows that there is something fundamentally wrong. Both the state and church are very powerful institutions that should be able to command respect from each other.
Once the state is allowed to silence the church at any point without any moral reason, then questions should be answered by the church itself. States are very good at employing tactics of divide and rule. They have even created church organisations to run parallel to existing ones for the benefit of using the ones they create to give them legitimacy.
These are the faith-based organisations (FBOs) sponsored by governments. They are given resources both in cash and kind to spread a view favourable to the political setup’s continued existence. Christians should rise above being used by politicians.
Individuals have also been sponsored by governments to masquerade as legitimate church leaders and these from time to time are interviewed to give an opinion contrary to the position of the church. A good example is when the church stands up to support the poverty that has been created by corruption in this country.
The interpretation given by those sponsored church leaders is that those who are against corruption or other vices by the state are anti-government and therefore support regime change. In a big way, they would have also been corrupted by being sponsored to do various tasks that support the powers that be for their continued stay in power. Because they are benefitting from the support they get, they do not realise that it is only for a while.
Some of these rogue church leaders have been given large pieces of land to parcel out to would-be voters. The act is tantamount to bribery. Who does not want stands? Corruption quickly creeps in and we find that those stands are given to particular party supporters. These church leaders will pretend like all is well when they are being used to divide people in the name of using public land to benefit a few.
Indeed, those who stand for justice will be vilified. The church should speak truth to power without fear or favour. It will be risky for government to come up with ways to curb the influence of the church by applying what is known as low intensity conflict approach to church officials. South American states majored in this approach whereby church officials would be monitored and blackmailed so that they were kept in check.
Perhaps this is why Jesus prayed for his disciples towards the end of his ministry when he said “I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but thou shouldest keep them from evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through thy truth; thy word is truth. As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have also I sent them into the world.” (John 17:14-18)
Such is the scourge in Africa. Those in power will always want to retain power by use of such corrupt methods in the name of being benevolent to those in need. What we do not realise is that such overtures are gimmicks to turn people into blind followers. People no longer see their real need for jobs. Unfortunately, the stands they are given will remain such because they are not employed and cannot, therefore, start construction.
Yet the whole period one is in power they try to demonstrate they have people at heart. What we see is that towards elections these programmes of “empowering” people come at a wrong time for those who can only make a claim of owning a piece of land, yet they cannot even service it.
What a travesty, when the powers that be dangle carrots which we cannot eat. The result is that the generality of people will be enticed by such gifts so that they support the status quo. Those who benefit from this Father Christmas approach cannot help but be held captive by the system that be.
If only people knew that they have all it takes because of their numbers! There is greater power in the masses than in the power of corruption which caters for a few. Why can’t the people demand what they really need — freedom? States will not give people freedom lest they are changed.
The worst they can do is to give people the crumbs under the table and call that empowerment. We then hide behind the notion that half a loaf is better than nothing. Is this the uhuru that we fought for? We struggled so that no one would again be forced to do what they do not want to do. We fought against coercion and we thought we were free but what we are experiencing are worse conditions that border on slavery.
Did people fight to sleep in the open streets at night lest if one goes home they will not afford to come back the next day to sell their wares? Did people fight to sleep in queues lining up for their hard-earned cash only to be told that there is no money in the bank?
One joins the queue at a local bank as early as possible and when the bank opens, an official comes out, counts people who will be served that day and the rest are told not to waste their time, but to go home.
These are the things on which the church should come together to encourage governments to rectify and not to wait until towards elections. Good programmes have come in too late only to be used for campaigning gimmicks. The main benefactors end up being those who are well-placed.
Is it not true that those who are influential end up having more than one farm? Those who are powerful end up getting more inputs that others. In most cases, some of them do not even deserve to be assisted.
Such good schemes end up benefitting those who have and those who do not have influence end up picking the crumbs. All these things are done under the nose of the church. The influence of the church should be liberating and not enslaving. There is great temptation for states to do selfish things in the name of helping people, yet their intention is to capture the masses so that they are manipulated.
Let those with ears hear.
l Levee Kadenge is a thelogian based at United Thelogical College in Harare. He can be contaced on firstname.lastname@example.org.