PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa (pictured) has challenged churches, which have openly criticised his government’s human rights record, to join politics instead of using “the pulpit to advance a nefarious agenda”.
BY MOSES MATENGA
He also bragged that his Zanu PF party would emphatically win the 2023 election despite the country facing a plethora of challenges.
Responding for the first time to a damning pastoral letter by the Catholic bishops over the deteriorating political and economic situation in Zimbabwe, Mnangagwa accused the church of pursuing a “wicked” agenda.
He made the accusations while addressing a Zanu PF politburo meeting yesterday.
“However, it is most unfortunate when men of the cloth begin to use the pulpit to advance a nefarious agenda for detractors of our country,” Mnangagwa said.
“Those who want to enter the political realm are welcome to do so. They must come out and form political parties. As Zanu PF, we are ready for the 2023 elections.”
He added: “We say no to saboteur tendencies in whatever guise.
“Zanu PF has a close (working) relationship with the church dating back to the days of the liberation struggle.
“In the post-independence period, we remain committed to working well with the church to advance the national development agenda as a united people.”
The Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference, in a letter dated August 14, 2020, endorsed the #ZimbabweanLivesMatter campaign that has seen the international community calling for an end to human rights abuses in the country.
The clerics bemoaned the shrinking democratic space in the country.
Though the letter was signed by seven bishops, the government, through Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa, singled out Harare Archbishop Robert Ndlovu, in what observers said was a tribal attack that saw the minister describing the men of cloth as “evil-minded and genocidal.”
Mutsvangwa’s attack of the bishops drew widespread condemnation, forcing Information secretary Ndavaningi Mangwana to promise a comprehensive response from Mnangagwa on Tuesday.
Mnangagwa yesterday also cracked the whip on the axed party secretary for health and child care, Claveria Chizema, whom he accused of “disloyalty and treachery” after material linked to the July 31 protests were found at her home in Harare ahead of the demonstrations.
“Politburo will recall that during its last session, we received a preliminary security report on the acts of disloyalty by Cde Chizema. I have since gone through the detailed final security report which reveals gross and glaring acts of disloyalty and treachery by Cde Chizema. As such, Cde Chizema can no longer continue to be a member of the party,” Mnangagwa said.
Addressing journalists after the politburo meeting, Zanu PF acting spokesperson Patrick Chinamasa said: “She (Chizema) admitted that she hid (some of the material) under (the) carpet and some in the garage and that she received the material in March and had not alerted security organs. It took her five months and the fact that she hid it under a carpet reflects some agenda that we don’t know. We are a very alert party and we will continue to investigate and fish out other accomplices.”
He said those that choose to go against the party principles would be exposed and booted out.
Chinamasa added that any element working to “split our leadership” would not be tolerated in the party, adding that former Mbare MP Tendai Savanhu had also been expelled for his association with Chizema.
Chinamasa insisted that there was no crisis in Zimbabwe and the only challenge the country was facing was COVID-19.
“There is no crisis in Zimbabwe. COVID-19 is the issue of the day, which the government is seized to fight against,” he said, adding that ruling party members must respect each other, especially on social media ahead of a looming restructuring exercise.
Mnangagwa is facing fierce internal and external discontent over his leadership amid worsening political and economic crisis in the country.
The international community, regional leaders and human rights organisations have of late come out hard on Mnangagwa over alleged abductions, torture and arbitrary arrests targeting journalists and activists.
Dozens of activists are in hiding while journalist Hopewell Chin’ono and opposition Transform Zimbabwe leader Jacob Ngarivhume are languishing in remand prison following their arrest ahead of the July 31 protests.
“I want to commend the party (Zanu PF) and the citizens in general for shunning the machinations of violence and division through the planned ill-fated July 31 insurrection.
“Following the failure, our detractors are evidently in disarray and desperate and grasping at straws to destroy confidence in our democratically-elected government. They are equally on overdrive to discredit our people-centred programmes,” Mnangagwa said.
This came as the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference (SACBC) yesterday accused Mnangagwa’s regime “of pursuing a tribal agenda instead of addressing the concerns of the church”.
“It is most regrettable that instead of addressing the issues, the government through its Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa chose to target and insult Archbishop Robert Ndlovu as ‘evil minded’, projecting its own tribalistic agenda to fuel divisions in the country,” Sithembele Sipuka, Bishop of Mthatha and president of SACBC said.
Addressing a Press conference yesterday, Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi said the pastoral letter “betrays markedly unspiritual determination on the part of its authors” and had breached the firewall between politics and religion in Zimbabwe.
He said the letter was “regrettable and disappointing” while it was an insult to Mnangagwa and his government.
Ziyambi accused the bishops of grandstanding and engaging in “politically-motivated mudslinging allegedly working with Western diplomats in Harare who are fighting the