9 January 2013

Zimbabwe: Zanu-PF Woos Churches

ZANU-PF is planning to intensify efforts to woo millions of church goers to support them in the coming elections as they pull all the stops to ensure victory.

With this year's polls expected to be a winner-take-all affair, ZANU-PF has oiled its machinery to go all out in mass mobilisation campaigns and will target religious groups as they easily pull large numbers of people at any given time.

Religious groups are an important constituency in the power matrix. According to the party's commissariat report contained in a Central Committee presentation, the party will embark on mass mobilisation of supporters prioritising the religious groups.

The report states that President Robert Mugabe and his vice presidents, Joice Mujuru and John Nkomo "have been on the forefront of spearheading mobilisation of religious, traditional and commercial organisations in an endeavor to increase the support base of the party".

Some critics have pointed to Walter Mzembi's defence of "miracle money" prophet, Urbert Angel against Tendai Biti's taunts that if the "man of God"could produce miracle money as purported, he must help out by depositing some into state coffers to settle government debt. Mzembi is from ZANU-PF while Biti is the Finance Minister from the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T).

This will not be the first time politicians have turned to the church for support. Political parties have been battling to entice the United Family International Church, led by Emmanuel Makandiwa who draws up to 60 000 people to his Sunday services while his Easter rally dubbed "Judgment Night" drew close to 100 000 people, tempting ZANU-PF's political commissar Webster Shamu to join gospel singers, Mahendere Brothers on stage at the National Sports Stadium in a bid to identify and belong.

Also last year, Vice-President Joice Mujuru attended an Apostolic sect church meeting at Mafararikwa in Marange where she addressed more than 300 000 people.

Since then Mujuru, who is a member of the Salvation Army, has been crisscrossing the country addressing several indigenous church gatherings like the ZCC and the Vapostori sect.

Not too long ago, Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa publicly declared that he had become a born again Christian.

In 2010, President Mugabe dressed up in white apostolic sect robes joined the Johane Masowe Passover ceremony in an apparent bid to woo followers of the church as he campaigned for elections he expected in 2011.

In April of the same year, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai of the MDC-T took part in a Masowe service with members of the Apostolic Sect in what was said to be a campaign to encourage members of the church to immunise their children.

At the time reports said that Shamu, war veterans leader Jabulani Sibanda, party deputy spokesperson Ephraim Masawi (now late), and Dickson Mafios, clad in white garments attended a Johane Masowe church service in Madziwa where they urged church members to support President Mugabe.

Johane Masowe leader Mudzidzi Jowasi later started calling for the lifting of targeted sanctions imposed on ZANU-PF officials by the West while his church members could be seen at various state functions where President Mugabe would be addressing. Several senior officials like police commissioner Augustine Chihuri are members of the church.

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