Tendai Mugabe, Harare Bureau
Leaders of indigenous churches yesterday praised President Mnangagwa for initiating political dialogue with his opponents, but stressed that the discussions should be pursued on the basis of respect and recognition of his legitimacy and the country’s institutions.
Further, the churches said they represented the majority of people in Zimbabwe, as such, their voice should be heard and respected on matters of national interest. The churches, under the banner of Inter-Denominational Council of Churches, made the remarks when they met President Mnangagwa and his two deputies, Dr Constantino Chiwenga and Cde Kembo Mohadi, at State House yesterday.
The council represents over 110 churches with a membership running into millions.
In his address while introducing other members of the organisation, founder of Family of God Church, Reverend Andrew Wutaunashe said opposition leaders, particularly MDC-Alliance leader Mr Nelson Chamisa, should recognise and respect President Mnangagwa as the elected leader of Zimbabwe.
“We would like to emphasise as the Church that we seek dialogue that begins from the recognition that our State, our nation of Zimbabwe and all its institutions must be preserved and respected.
“To this end, we as the indigenous (church) leaders, we are also saying there cannot be genuine dialogue based on trying to determine whether or not you are the President of Zimbabwe; you are the President of Zimbabwe.”
Rev Wutaunashe said President Mnangagwa won the elections and was confirmed by the Constitutional Court (Concourt) and it would be foolhardy to start any dialogue surrounding his legitimacy.
“We also call upon opposition parties, particularly the MDC, not on political partisan basis, but on concern as citizens of Zimbabwe and on concern as church leaders who represent millions of people, to recognise the President of Zimbabwe openly, to accept the findings of the Constitutional Court as a respect for our Constitution and institutions and on top of that, if dialogue is wanted, let it proceed from a place that respects our institutions.
“That being provided, Your Excellency, we encourage that you continue to pursue with all the energy you can, dialogue in our nation so that our nation can come to a place of soundness and participation by everybody.”
Bishop Nehemiah Mutendi of the Zion Christian Church (ZCC), who is the patron of the Inter-Denominational Council of Churches, said indigenous churches were the pioneers of the country’s revolution.
“A country without laws is a jungle. If we say courts and the country’s institutions are useless or say let us suspend everything for seven years, you wonder if those people are indigenous people. We are here to pray for our country and the good health of all Zimbabweans,” said Bishop Mutendi.
In his intervention, President Mnangagwa said Zimbabweans could only build their country as a united force.
On the respect of the country’s institutions and laws, the President said: “When we have our elections, you don’t declare yourself the winner. No! It is the duty of other institutions.
“If you fail to listen to those institutions, you are going against God. The role of the church is to ensure that people humble themselves and respect the country’s laws and institutions. In our Constitution, we gave space to the Church; that is freedom of worship for all religions. We guarantee the freedom of worship.
“We expect (that) if our nation becomes a Christian nation, our people will live a Christian life. If our people live a Christian life, then our people will live in harmony because Christianity exudes peace, love, humility and harmony.”
President Mnangagwa said even though Zanu-PF got two thirds majority in Parliament, it initiated a political party dialogue process in the spirit of inclusivity.
He said several parties joined the dialogue and it was encouraging that out of the 23 political parties that participated in last year’s general elections, 20 were taking part in the dialogue.
The President said the difference between the churches operating in Zimbabwe was that there were indigenous churches founded locally while others were head-quartered in other countries.
As such, President Mnangagwa said as an indigenous Government, it was important for his administration to dialogue with leaders of indigenous churches who also make decisions without consulting their external head offices.