The Herald (Harare)

10 November 2012

Zimbabwe: 'We Represent Churches of Zimbabwe'

interview

THE Apostolic Christian Council of Zimbabwe is an indigenous church organisation that was officially launched by Vice President Joice Mujuru in 2010. The main thrust of the organisation is to defend and uphold the interests of indigenous churches that have been for a long time regarded as illegitimate. In this interview with our senior reporter Tendai Mugabe, (TM) the ACCZ executive president Archbishop Johanes Ndanga (JN) explains the organisation's objectives and its involvement in national politics. Read on . . .

 What is ACCZ and what are its fundamental objectives?

The Apostolic Christian Council of Zimbabwe is a church organisation officially launched on September 12, 2010. It becomes the fourth Christian organisation in Zimbabwe.

The first is the Catholic Bishops Conference. It caters for the Catholics and as you may be aware, Roman Catholic was founded in Italy. The second is the Zimbabwe Council of Churches which is mainly for Protestant churches and also came from the West.

The third is the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe, which represents Pentecostal churches and it started in the United States of America.

ACCZ becomes the fourth in terms of reception but in terms of numbers we are the largest. Our main thrust is to represent the interests of indigenous churches -- the Apostolic and Zion churches that were being looked down upon.

Why were these apostolic churches looked down upon?

It was a colonial initiative to deliberately despise indigenous churches and we were called all sorts of derogatory names such as "sects" and "self styled". So the main objective of ACCZ is to redress that colonial mindset that was entrenched in our members. The difference that we have with the first three bodies is that they represent churches in Zimbabwe and ACCZ represent churches of Zimbabwe.

Some might say you are just opportunists arguing that where were these indigenous churches before and why are you coming out now?

The truth of the matter is that indigenous churches were always there even during the colonial era. The first indigenous churches are Zion, that was founded by David Masoka in 1905, and the Zion Christian Church of Nehemiah Mutendi that was formed around 1908. The problem is that when colonialists came they brainwashed our people.

They taught people about the gospel of spiritual riches and thereby separating them from their God-given wealth and resources. We are saying as indigenous churches we should also own properties just like the Western churches that operate in our country.

Look at Anglican, they own a lot of properties in the country together with the Roman Catholic. We are simply saying we should get what we deserve as indigenous churches. As you can see, the fight in the Anglican Church is not about ownership of the people but properties.

What are you doing as an organisation to concientise your membership on issues you have raised?

The most important thing is to educate people to understand what we stand for. We have to educate people that it is God who made them Africans and Zimbabweans in particular. All the resources and wealth that is in Zimbabwe is for Zimbabweans and they should benefit from them.

In other words we are talking about empowerment of the indigenous person. Colonialists used to tell us that blessed are the poor in spirit and we should know that being poor in spirit does not mean poverty.

Such verses need good interpretation. God said in the bible that my people perish because of lack of knowledge.

As a church organisation, do you have a role to play in the country's politics?

We just have to be involved in national politics.

We have a mandate as a church to educate people what is wrong and what is good. As the country crafts the new constitution we cannot just sit and allow the dubious Copac document sailing through with such wild clauses such as homosexual rights.

Regardless of the fact that we are church members, we are also citizens of Zimbabwe and we should ensure that the interests of our constituency as the church are captured by the country's supreme law.

In any case, you cannot separate the church from politics. In the bible although David was a king, at one point he went to stay with Samuel who was a priest.

If you read 1 Samuel:19 verse 18 to 24 it says "So David fled and went to Samuel in Naioth at Ramah and told Samuel all that Saul had done to him.

"Then Saul sent his army to arrest David but the army abandoned their diabolic mission after they had discovered a group of men of God prophesying at Ramah. Soldiers also started to pray . . ."

I just wanted you to appreciate the power of the church in national politics. Again national leaders are appointed by God and as the church, we are the ambassadors of God on earth and that should be understood.

But it said you are aligned to Zanu-PF and to a faction allegedly led by Vice President Joice Mujuru to be specific?

Zanu-PF, the Apostolic and Zion churches share certain values in common. Firstly, it is written in the book of Hebrews that . . . and according to the law almost all things are purified with blood and without shedding blood there is no independence.

Even Jesus Christ himself died for the people. With this background, we understand Zanu-PF better because it has the same history. Countless members of Zanu-PF let their blood to liberate this country. Zanu-PF has its origins in Zimbabwe while the MDC formations share foreign parentage.

It is on record that when it was founded, MDC-T got its funding from Westminster Foundation. In this regard, it is the duty of the church to play the umpire's role and tell the people what is good for the nation and what is bad. Zanu-PF and ACCZ share the principles on the issue of indigenisation because we want the indigenous churches to be empowered as well.

As for the purported factionalism in Zanu-PF, we are not aware of it. To be honest there is not a single day that the Vice President has told us that she leads a faction, neither the purported leaders of the other alleged factions.

You talk of empowerment, what programmes have you put in place for your membership?

We have the Christian Health Medical Aid Society for our members, licenced by the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare. This scheme helps our members access excellent healthcare.

Dr Edwin Muguti, former Deputy Minister of Health and Child Welfare, chairs it. We also have the Kristu Funeral Service to assist our members to bury their beloved ones. We can repatriate a body from as far as Australia. As ACCZ, we have a Negotiated Benefits Housing Trust which deals with the issue of stands for our members. Close to 3 000 members have bought stands in Harare alone through this trust.

The trust is found in other towns such Bulawayo, Gweru, Kwekwe and Masvingo, among others. We have another programme that was initiated by the Vice President who is our matron, which is a micro finance project known as the Apostolic Church Loan Fund.

The Vice President has sourced US$15 million, which is ready for certain modalities to be finalised before it is disbursed to fund various projects for our members. Most indigenous churches have been given farms and ZCC got a farm to build a university while Zion got 295 hectares of land in Chartsworth to build a hospital and to do other projects.

Some of our members received sewing machines and candle making machines from the Zanu-PF Women's League. Now we are trying to penetrate in the local authorities but our efforts are being hampered by opposition politics from MDC-T.

This is why we want to vote this party out in the next elections. We also have a partnership with a Chinese bus manufacturing company called Higher Buses to buy and sell buses, small vehicles and mining equipment to church members.

Do you work together with other church organisations you have mentioned?

We have to work together. We are supposed to meet as heads of Christian denominations but so far we have not met. The problem is we were lagging behind and we think that was deliberate. But we are not so much worried to work with them.

Where do you see the organisation in the next five years.

We need spiritual guidance and now we have fully fledged offices in seven provinces. Our key priority is to finish the remaining three and the provincial offices will then launch district offices for us to be truly national.

However, we have enemies who do not want us to achieve this and this is why I said we need spiritual guidance. Our enemies are both local and international. They are eager to see our demise but with God that will not happen.

Thank you Archbishop for your time.

You are most welcome.

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