Govt should address church’s concerns

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THE response by Christian denominations under the Zimbabwe Heads of Christian Denominations (ZHOCD) to government’s nod for resumption of sit-in church services for fully vaccinated congregants is an indictment on President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s leadership style.

It’s now worrisome that government has developed a knack for sowing confusion by pronouncing half-backed decisions mostly for political expedency without considering their long term implications.

Churches have raised pertinent questions which if left unaddressed could throw the country into a health catastrophe given that the fourth wave of COVID-19 is lurking in the horizon.

It appears there is no more restriction on the number of congregants allowed for each service.

Some churches have memberships running into thousands and the bigger question is: do government health workers have the capacity to monitor compliance with the set health guidelines at all church gatherings throughout the country?

The country has only fully vaccinated about 10% of the population, and the number is quite insignificant considering Zimbabwe is largely a Christian community. What this means is that more unvaccinated people will find their way into the church.

Just as the churches have highlighted, it will be difficult for them to turn away congregants.

Government should have consulted churches in this regard before rushing to give a greenlight for sit-in services to resume.

It is not enough to say the churches should observe World Health Organisation regulations. Government should come up with a clear implementation roadmap.

Could it be that the decision was made to appease the church as a political constituency? This could be possible considering that the Johanne Marange apostolic sect was allowed to congregate for a three-week-long annual Passover in Bocha, Manicaland province at the height of the pandemic, with both government and the police professing ignorance.

The decision to allow for physical church gatherings to resume in the midst of such a global pandemic raises a lot of questions. Was the move meant to silence growing discontent over government’s open bias towards white garment churches or it was a subtle way of coercing all Christians to get vaccinated so that the country quickly achieves its targeted 60% herd immunity?

In future, the government should be more pragmatic and avoid these populist and knee-jerk policy pronouncements. COVID-19 is real and it is decimating not only communities, but the economy too.