Pastor Evan Mawarire, who started #ThisFlag movement which led to the shut-down of Zimbabwe on July 6, is stuck in South Africa where he had just gone, as he said, for a break. This was after being harassed, intimidated, arrested and detained in cells on spurious charges which were thrown out in court.
SUNDAY OPINION BY PIUS WAKATAMA
I met the young man for the first time, briefly, at the launch of David Coltart’s book, The Struggle Continues 50 years of Tranny in Zimbabwe, and I thought he looked rather tired. He must really have needed to get away for a while.
While he was away, President Robert Mugabe got onto the podium during the funeral of Charles Utete, the country’s first Cabinet secretary. He raved and ranted at Mawarire, accusing him of inciting the people to violence. He said if people like Mawarire did not like living in Zimbabwe, “they should go to the countries of those who are sponsoring them.”
This frightened the pastor to the extent that he decided not to hurry back to Zimbabwe. I was very happy when I heard that his family had since joined him in South Africa. He really needs time to think and pray about his future.
The emergence of the likes of Mawarire and other young Christian leaders who are openly preaching God’s truth to our dictatorial and oppressive government is such a blessing to those of us who have been lone voices crying out in the wilderness.
These young Christians are getting to grips with what Jesus Christ actually taught and, like Dr Martin Luther King Jnr in America and Bishop Desmond Tutu in South Africa, are putting those teachings into practice.
I can empathise with Mawarire because I have been in his position myself. I have been arrested and detained in filthy cells under false charges, not once, but four times, even though I had not committed any crime. The first time I was arrested by the Smith regime as an NDP youth and the other three times by the Mugabe government for telling God’s truth.
The last time the court found me not guilty I went home rejoicing with my wife, children, friends and relatives. However, at night someone in the system called me and advised me to get out of the country because my life was in danger.
I immediately escaped to South Africa and only came back after the signing of the Global Political Agreement between Zanu PF and the MDC-T, to continue writing the truth as I saw it.
Some people are accusing Mawarire of cowardice and abandoning the people who were now following him. This is very wrong. Proverbs 27:12 says; “A prudent man sees evil and hides himself; the naïve proceed and pay the penalty.” I sincerely believe that had I not listened to my anonymous informer, I would not be here today to continue the fight against the demonic evil which has engulfed our beautiful Zimbabwe.
The Bible is full of stories of prophets who hid themselves when it was prudent to do so. Faith is not folly and prudence is not cowardice.
Mawarire never set out to seek political power or fame. He was shepherding a small flock of believers and busy eking out a living as a professional master of ceremonies and marriage guidance counsellor. Like most Zimbabweans, he was not able to make ends meet and even to pay his children’s school fees.
He traced his problems and those of all Zimbabweans to poor governance and decided to protest using the flag, which is the symbol of our democracy that is being trampled on by the government.
The result was that his message, which was generated by his Christian conscience, resonated with thousands of Zimbabweans who are suffering under Mugabe’s autocratic regime. They joined him to protest in their thousands.
Instead of listening sympathetically to the cries of the pastor and the people, Mugabe and his cohorts responded in the only way they know how — with brute force. We know of the arrest and torture of people like Jestina Mukoko, Pastor Patrick Mugadza, and many others. The disappearance of Itai Dazamara is still fresh in our minds.
In lambasting the pastor, Mugabe said, “A man of God will speak the biblical truth. 1 Corinthians, what does it say? Love one another. So, beware these men of the cloth, not all of them are true preachers of the Bible.” Anyone who knows even just the very basic tenets of the Christian gospel will tell you how perverted the president’s gospel is.
It is the very opposite of what Christ taught. How dare he talk of Christian love when he is the one who coined the “pasi naye!” slogan, which literally means that person should die?
Mawarire, to me, is a real man of God. God’s message to Christians is very clear. He said, “Deliver the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” The word pastor means shepherd.
This is the duty of pastors as shepherds of the sheep, to protect them from thieves and ravening wolves. This is the role of the church of Jesus Christ on earth and in Zimbabwe at this time.
On the eve of independence on April 17 1980, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference spelt out the correct relationship between the church and the State.
In a statement, the bishops said, “While the State and the church are independent and autonomous in their own spheres, both are at the service of man… The church is not identified with any political community, nor is she bound to any political system. Rather, her function is to be the moral conscience of the nation, the sign and safeguard of the supreme value of the human being.”
What is saddening is the reaction or non- reaction of the church in Zimbabwe to the suffering the people of Zimbabwe are going through at this time. By the church in Zimbabwe, I am referring to the leaders of mainline denominations and organised church umbrella bodies like the Zimbabwe Council of Churches, the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe Heads of Christian Denominations and many others.
Instead of coming out in defence of the oppressed, they are busy cow-towing and compromising with wolves which are devouring their sheep. Some even dare to say, “As Christians, we need to be diplomatic and negotiate with the government.” What unadulterated heresy!
Instead of preaching the truth to power, we see church leaders like Bishop Ezekiel Guti praising Mugabe and imploring him to remain in power despite his oppression of the people of Zimbabwe. Some of them misinterpret Romans 13,where it says everyone must submit to the governing authorities because they were established by God.
They don’t go on to read where it says those rulers hold no terror for those who do right but for those who do wrong.
Most Christian leaders are conspicuous by their silence because of their fear and or greed. Some have been rewarded for their silence or collusion with directorships and farms. They live in palaces, drive the latest cars and dress themselves up like dolls. They call their wealth God’s blessings when in fact they are products of their evil greed. One day soon their wealth is going to rot before their eyes.
True Christians are not called to a life of luxury from hobnobbing with the rich and powerful. They are called to a life of suffering in pursuit of justice.
He who has ears to hear, let him hear.