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‘Abandon Uncle Tomism to end Zim crises’. . . outspoken cleric Magaya tells church as Zim burns

AMID Zimbabwe’s worsening economic and political crises, the Church has stepped up its efforts to convince President Emmerson Mnangagwa and MDC Alliance leader, Nelson Chamisa to end their long-drawn rift.

However, outspoken cleric and leader of Devine Destiny Network, Ancelimo Magaya, says they have not done enough and now is the time to abandon Uncle Tomism and end the country’s crises. He speaks to Daily News On Sunday senior reporter Sindiso Mhlophe and below are the excerpts of the interview.

Q: How would you describe the country’s socio-economic and political situation?
A: Basically our political and socio-economic environment has become toxic. There is so much belligerence, polarity and this sadly has gone on for the past four decades. After independence we experienced the massacres in Matabeleland. From there we had an economic adjustment programme and then we moved to the land reform and the formation of the MDC.

Soon after that we had the referendum wherein the government suffered its first ever defeat by the masses.
This escalated and strengthened the hostile approach by the State to the masses.
Fast forward, we witnessed Murambatsvina where hundreds of people lost their homes, and in 2008 we had nationwide maiming and abductions.

Then we move on to August 1, 2018 where we had killings. So you can see that for almost the entire four decades Zimbabwe has travelled the lane of torrid psychosocial economic journey.

There has been polarity, suspicion and mistrust. It’s either you are MDC or Zanu PF. When you talk about social justice issues people start viewing you as pro-MDC, but when you talk about land and sovereignty then you are Zanu PF.

Regarding the economy … I have never known a country with a rate of policy failure which is worse than Zimbabwe.
We have had multiplicity of statutory instruments, where at some point the United States dollar (US) is banned.

Right now it’s not clear whether it is banned or it is somewhere in between.
The rate of policy failure is alarming. The social environment is denigrating the poor people. It is not pro-poor.

There is a great deal of brain drain as people are regularly leaving the country. The Bible says in Jeremiah Chapter 8 verse 22 that where are the physicians? Where are your drugs? To use a Biblical term it says “is there no balm in Gilead? Are there no physicians in Gilead? And if they are there why is it that my people are not healed?”

So the question here is that don’t we have doctors and physicians that have trained well in our universities?
If we have such people why is it that our people are dying in hospitals? So this is a terrible situation we are faced with.

Q: What would you say is the church’s role in ending the country’s challenges that you have just described?
A: It is very important that people unite, reconcile and sit at a round table.
But it is important also to be guided by universal principles.

When we are talking about dialogue it’s scary because you almost want to talk about a political pact wherein the political parties involved, particularly the major ones, the MDC and Zanu PF should have a dialogue which will eventually result in a political pact where these guys share interests.

There are situations where politicians have what you call interest-based negotiations. This is where there are interests in MDC and … Zanu PF and when that occurs they share seats and Cabinet posts. When they share Cabinet posts they enjoy power and that’s it.

This is not what we want. What we want is a situation where political parties are there, the Church is there and business is there and we sit under a tree and we begin to dialogue on matters that affect us.

There are critical issues like reforms, civil liberties and many others. These are issues which concern Zimbabweans, so we need to be able to talk about these things.

The role of the Church is to clearly capture the concerns of Zimbabweans and present them before the government.
The Church has to clearly point out where the masses are wrong.
For example, if the masses demonstrate and then end up vandalising properties then they are wrong.

The Church should be able to tell the opposition wherever they are wrong to say we wish you do things this way.
At times we note that there are elements of corruption in your councils or elements of violence in your midst.

When talking to the leadership of Zanu PF the Church should not mince its words because we are where we are now not because of the opposition, or the sanctions … but because of ill-gotten wealth, corruption and reckless policies.

The Church should therefore be able to say why are people not healed or why are there no doctors?
There are no doctors because our government does not value our doctors. The government officials are treated elsewhere and they want to fire our doctors.

In mediation, it’s not just mediation where the Church adopts an uncle Tomism approach.

An Uncle Tomism approach is where you view the Church as an old man wearing a long oversized jacket and speaks softly, saying children don’t do this.

The Church is strong, powerful and emphatic. So we say no to Uncle Tomism and of course the extreme opposite of this, which is hot headedness.

So the Church should be brutally honest and say to the government you have been reckless.
The Church should be able to tell the government to climb down from its high horse.
There should be that clarity in reprimanding the powers-that-be where they are wrong, reprimanding the masses and the opposition.

Q: The Church has on numerous occasions been accused of being partisan, do you believe the Church can still play its intermediary role?
A: There is some truth in that churches in Zimbabwe have become polarised along political lines.
There are some members of the Church that are regarded to be sympathetic to Zanu PF and this is because they are afraid of being arrested.

Being able to tell President Emmerson Mnangagwa that he is responsible for the August 1, 2018 killings requires courage and some have not been able to do so because they are afraid.

If they are not afraid they have a very erroneous theological understanding of what the Bible says regarding the role of the Church.

They think that the church’s role is to unquestionably imbibe or embrace everything that the government says.
That is not the case, the Church should rebuke. Some of them have been fed by the government.

They have received portions of land and you cannot bite the hand that feeds you. A dog with a bone in its mouth cannot bark.

So they will speak for Zanu PF. Those people cannot mediate. There are some that are unquestionably embracing everything about the MDC.

I am not like that. I have rebuked Chamisa at some point after Morgan Tsvangirai, telling him not to associate himself with the thuggery we are seeing in the party, with young people jeering and booing Thokozani Khupe and calling her a prostitute.

At some point you were calling her mama Khupe, how then has she suddenly become a prostitute.
That is hogwash and hypocritical. I have said to Chamisa you are a son of the Church. Don’t allow people to commit violence on your account.

The other reason is that some of them are immoral. You have church leaders who have children living outside wedlock and I will tell what the government does….

They will call you to their offices and say Bishop so and so we have just invited you for a cup of tea.
They will then ask how your daughter is doing and you will ask which daughter? And they will say the one who is outside marriage or the one you had with another woman in the avenues.

What they simply want is for you to know that they have your file. There is power in living an upright life and when you live such a life they will fear and respect you.

There are church leaders who are rotten in terms of their lifestyle and therefore they are praise singers of the ruling party.

Therefore, there is a section of the Church which cannot mediate, but I believe there is still a section which is upright and objective and … remains the only suitable arm that can mediate.

Q: Various stakeholders have called for international mediation while others are of the view that we do not need such intervention. What is your take on the issue?
A: For me it’s not an either or approach. I think at times an international figure will have technical expertise in the area of mediation as they deal with more global issues. The Church then becomes necessary because we are the shepherds and we deal with moral issues.

There are certain issues of a moral nature. There are certain issues of a spiritual nature that need the Church.
So people like Thabo Mbeki may not fully comprehend these issues. That is why what happened in 2008/9 had major shortfalls.
So we do need international mediation but that is not to suggest that we don’t need the Church.

Q: On July 31 some political and civil rights groups are organising a demonstration against corruption. Do you believe that demonstrations are a solution to our problems especially at a time when the nation is grappling with Covid-19?
A: I can assure you that the American system is going to be a lot more diligent in the manner in which they deal with issues of racism.

Anytime that a black person is killed by a white police officer, I can tell you that something close to a war will happen.

Demonstrations work, and even if they don’t the right people will have gotten the message.
When we talk about demonstrations let us not look at them in isolation from other solutions.

So there are blocks of solutions. It’s not just the fact that children have to be given homework and say if it works then other things will not be necessary to learning.

So demonstrations are part of the blocks of possible solutions. It’s within our Constitution and it is allowed that people demonstrate.

Now when talking about the coronavirus, I am a life saver and I don’t want life to be destroyed.
However, there is corruption that is taking place during Covid-19.

Millions have been stolen during Covid-19. Whilst I am concerned about Covid-19, I am equally concerned about a system that takes advantage of the global pandemic to milk the resources of the nation.
It is very sad that people steal monies from other people’s tax and you want us to wait until Covid-19 is over.

The will in the people to demonstrate during Covid-19 is a sign of desperation, that yes there is Covid-19 but we are in a bad state.

There is a more dangerous and cancerous syndrome than Covid-19 — which is corruption. So people will demonstrate exercising caution.

Q: You mentioned that demonstrations are part of a block of solutions, what other solutions can the country adopt to solve the ongoing socio-economic and political crises?
A: The church has to give the government an ultimatum to say … we have these things that are outstanding.
Number one we have unresolved issues of abductions and people have not been accounted for and you always talk about a third force please deal with it.

Deal with this within the next three months. We also have an outstanding report from the Motlanthe Commission.
Very unprofessionally, Kazembe Kazembe said those who were implicated in the August 1 killings would be arrested ‘next year’ meaning this year.

How do you give people warning and notice that we will arrest you after two months and you think they are still in the county.

We have an outstanding matter with the Commission’s report so the Church can list some of those things and say if the government is not going to respond to this we will not hesitate as the church to declare you a failure.
Once the Church officially, tells them that, that is the end of them.

We can actually go and sit somewhere in our collars and say unless this is done we will not move.
Thirdly, appeal to the international or regional community to pile pressure on them to ensure they pile pressure on the ruling Zanu PF.

We must also continue to educate our masses and reach out to people in the rural areas to say don’t be used by politicians to commit acts of violence.

So we are empowering the communities and when we empower them, the next time those that commit violence using the poor youths will not find any youths to use.

We can also use negotiations and diplomatic engagement to solve the country’s problems

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