HARARE – As Zimbabwe continues on its downward spiral of the past two decades, usually circumspect church leaders are adding their voices to growing calls for President Robert Mugabe to step down, to give the country an opportunity to revive its fortunes.
In an unexpected statement yesterday, that marked a radical departure from their usual quiet diplomacy towards local politics, the country’s churches — as represented by the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe (EFZ) and the influential Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference (ZCBC) among others — also said Zimbabwe deserved leaders who had the interests of the people at heart.
EFZ president and spokesperson of the churches on the matter, Shingi Munyeza, said it was important for the country’s leaders to adhere to the rule of law, get rid of political patronage and rampant factionalism, and engender “leadership renewal across the board” if Zimbabwe was to come right.
Chipping in, the chairperson of the Zimbabwe Heads of Christian Denominations (ZHCD), Ishmael Mukuwanda, said the church was extremely concerned by the country’s deteriorating economic conditions, characterised by a biting cash shortage, food price increases and rising unemployment.
“As the church, we represent the voice of the people, especially the poor and the marginalised. We therefore feel that we should periodically convey some of the people’s feelings to assist our leaders in government in decision-making,” he said.
Mukuwanda added that the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe’s plans to introduce bond notes to try and mitigate the ongoing cash shortages had brought back “sad memories” of the hyperinflationary 2008 period.
“Many people who have come to church to communicate their concerns have expressed a lot of panic over the bond notes. They don’t see the difference between bond notes and the hyper-inflationary bearer cheques that were used up to 2008.
“If they are to be introduced, there should be tangible guarantees that citizens will not lose out in the process. However, more efforts and determination should be put towards revitalisation of our industries to create employment, boost exports, and to manage our fiscal expenditure to realise economic growth,” he said.
Mukuwanda said the church was also “disheartened” by rampant corruption in the country, and the government’s inaction over the missing $15 billion diamond revenue.
“This is one of many cases of the looting of our finite natural resources that is contributing towards the further impoverishment of our people. We are saddened that to date, no one has been brought to account for such cases of fraud of the highest order ever since the nation was born in 1980.
“We believe this amount would actually help this nation offset its over $10 billion debt plus interest, or better still be used to finance public investments in education, water and sanitation, revive our industrial capacity and mitigate against the El Nino-induced drought.
“We need a full audit and explanation on the $15 billion that is missing, and all culprits to be brought to book,” Mukuwanda added.
Calls from all quarters for Mugabe to step down have been getting louder by the day as fed-up, long-suffering Zimbabweans use a variety of platforms, including social media, to pan the increasingly frail nonagenarian and his ruling Zanu PF for their misrule.
Mugabe, who is the only leader that Zimbabweans have known since the country gained its independence from Britain in April 1980, is also the world’s oldest president.
Despite being a mature 92 years old, his party has since affirmed him as its presidential candidate for the eagerly-anticipated 2018 national polls — with powerful First Lady Grace Mugabe also suggesting controversially recently that he would even continue ruling the country from his grave.
Meanwhile, the MDC’s Mabvuku-Tafara Member of Parliament James Maridadi, has vowed to proceed with his mooted motion in Parliament to impeach Mugabe for his “disastrous policies” that have decimated the country’s once-promising economy, sending millions of citizens into the Diaspora.
“It is an open secret that the majority of Zimbabweans and opposition parties have been talking of the need to impeach Mugabe. I am personally one of the people who actually think … Mugabe must be impeached and so I am going to walk the talk,” he said.
Maridadi said in addition to being too old to lead a country, recent developments had further amplified the fact that Mugabe was now “incapable of occupying his position”.
“We have cases where the president has fallen in public and went on to explain that he actually does fall many times at his home, which means he is no longer fit to rule,” he said. The Mabvuku legislator also noted that the issue of the looted $15 billion diamond revenue that has vanished without any arrests being effected was further evidence that Mugabe “must resign”.
Amid all this, Mugabe’s Zanu PF continues to be ravaged by its seemingly unstoppable factional and succession wars, that have served to worsen the country’s lot.
Only last week, restless war veterans responded with interest to a savage assault on them by Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko, who accused them last Thursday of engaging in “treason” by endorsing Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa as Mugabe’s shoe-in successor.
In his polemic, delivered while addressing a Zanu PF Matabeleland North provincial committee meeting in Lupane, Mphoko warned the pro-Mnangagwa former liberation struggle fighters against talking about Mugabe’s succession while the nonagenarian was still on the throne.
But the secretary-general of the main faction of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans’ Association (ZNLWVA), Victor Matemadanda, had no kind words for Mphoko when he spoke to the Daily News, once again accusing the under-fire VP of having deserted Zimbabwe’s war of liberation.
“What do you think is more treasonous between saying Mnangagwa is the most senior person in the Zanla (Zanu PF military wing) ranks and deserting the war, going to Mozambique and selling guns meant for waging the liberation struggle? What is the bigger crime between saying Mnangagwa is senior and staying in a hotel for two years, refusing to stay in a $3 million house in a country where the economy is struggling?” Matemadanda asked angrily, referring to Mphoko’s continued and controversial stay in a five-star Harare hotel.
“We will not be intimidated by his misuse of the word treason. We never said Mnangagwa should take over today or tomorrow. We are simply investing in our future as Zanla and Mphoko must not interfere because we never interfere in Zipra (Zapu military wing) issues.
“He is annoyed by our discourse because he is the face of G40 and he thinks either Jonathan Moyo or (Saviour) Kasukuwere should be president. But that will never happen, unfortunately. That will not be decided by one who deserted the war.
“What is so special about him and his Mozambican wife? He must just quietly enjoy the good life that he was given by our president which he does not deserve anyway.
“He is least qualified to talk about our revolution because he was not part of its critical stages after he deserted,” Matemadanda said, adding that the only reason why they had a semblance of respect for Mphoko was because he was appointed by “our president”.