Registrar-General (RG) Tobaiwa Mudede yesterday said his officers were going around the country issuing national identity documents to members of apostolic sects, a move political analysts believe is designed to boost Zanu PF’s political fortunes ahead of the next elections.
Mudede told members of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Defence and Home Affairs his officials targeted Apostolic members during their gatherings, but said the move was not politically motivated. He said his officers were invited to the gatherings for that purpose.
One must have a national identity document in order to be able to vote in Zimbabwe.
The development comes at a time when Zanu PF has been wooing church leaders, with President Robert Mugabe leading the way by attending a Johanne Marange Passover meeting in Mafarikwa village in Marange last year.
Senior party officials including secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa, political commissar Webster Shamu, secretary for women’s affairs Oppah Muchinguri and deputy secretary for youth Saviour Kasukuwere among several others have also made conspicuous appearances at such gatherings of the apostolic sect.
Members from the numerous apostolic sects have become a common feature at Zanu PF gatherings, with a number of their leaders openly declaring their support for the party.
Musikavanhu MP Prosper Mutseyami (MDC-T) questioned the “motive” behind the registration.
The RG said the registration had not only been carried out among Johane Marange members, but also to other churches that requested the services of his.
“I addressed them and there was no politician. There was no ulterior motive and if any of the churches call us we will go,” he said.
Tempers flared when Mount Darwin North MP Dickson Mafios (Zanu PF), who is a member of the Johane Marange sect, intervened and said the church’s committee on which he sits had sent people to the RG’s Office to seek registration.
Mafios said he deliberately did not approach Tobaiwa to avoid a conflict of interest.
Commitee chairperson Paul Madzore interjected and told Mafios the committee wanted answers from the Mudede and not members of the committee, to which he protested saying he had been concerned by the use of the word “motive”.
Chipinge West legislator Sibonile Nyamudeza told Mudede that a religious sect was registered in Maunganidze, Birchenough Bridge, although there is an RG’s sub-office nearby.
“There is a registration point five kilometres away, so I wonder why this was done?” he asked.
He also suggested it would be difficult for officials to differentiate Zimbabweans from foreigners using local languages arguing the Ndau people in Chipinge spoke the same dialect with Mozambicans across the border and their chiefs had similar names on either side.
In response, Mudede said the system “is meticulous but we can’t say it can’t be cheated”.
Political analyst Blessing Vava said he believed the programme was meant to benefit Zanu PF.
“The apostolic sect has been a favourite hunting ground for Zanu PF as witnessed by the several top officials, including President Mugabe, who have been given platforms to address members of the sect,” he said.
Another analyst, Charles Mangongera, said Zanu PF wanted to mobilise as much as possible in churches and was using Mudede to ensure they were able to vote in the next elections.
“It confirms that his office has not been as impartial as it should have been. His Office is part of an institution that has lost autonomy and is operating as a party appendage,” he said.