Bishop stirs hornets nest
Bishop Levee Kadenge told participants on a workshop on national reconciliation in the eastern district of Vumba that the revolutionary exercise was totally faulty and there was an urgent need for the State to formally apologise to both the British government and the former white farmers.
Bishop Kadenge went on to claim that grave misfortunes had befallen a number of senior government and ruling Zanu PF party officials who had “forcibly” occupied land formerly held by whites.
He said: “The effects of what became known as the fast trek (sic) land redistribution have left an indelible mark on Zimbabwean (sic). Established farmers who have invested most of their life savings on farms woke up the following day on the streets of Harare.
“New owners occupied these farms, now owners of properties they never worked for. It was bane indeed (sic) for the lovely Zimbabwe. Such was a haphazard land redistribution exercise done out of expedience (sic).”
He went on: “In no time, misfortune became the order of the day. I have heard and come across several incidents of some horrific developments that have befallen many a number of new farmers.”
The Bishop went on to chronicle the incidents, none of which were verifiable or ever reported on by any section of the Zimbabwe media.
He said senior politicians in the Mhondoro area of Mashonaland West Province died soon after occupying their new farms while a rich Zanu PF couple lost their child to a snake bite in similar circumstances.
Another claim was that a senior party official had died of a bee sting while others are said to have drowned in swimming pools at the farm houses of former white commercial farmers.
Bishop Kadenge did not stop there, adding that a senior government official who occupied a farm near Harare did not visit his property for close to two years. However, on the day he finally did go to the farm, he died on the bed of the former owner.
“Eminent persons should lead a delegation to the British government; ask for forgiveness while at the same time we should also ask for forgiveness from the white farmers for our moment of madness,” Bishop Kadenge said.
This has drawn the ire of a cross-section of Zimbabwean society with analysts saying the Bishop, a leader of the pro-Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Christian Alliance, should “keep quiet if he had nothing constructive to say”.
Ruling party politburo member and secretary for information and publicity Nathan Shamuyarira, who was also present at the workshop, rubbished Kadenge’s utterances as ridiculous and accused him of working for an organisation set up by the American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
He said: “The major problem is the interference of big powers at all levels, even at the level of the Church. Some members of the Church have been arm-twisted by the Americans and the British to destabilise Zimbabwe.
“Kadenge is a member of a group called the Christian Alliance set up by the Americans and financed by the CIA to destabilise the government. He (Kadenge) has been warned by Reverend Sithole not to mix Church business with the so-called Christian Alliance.”
Reverend Sithole is a senior cleric in the Methodist Church. Shamuyarira said he was aware that Rev. Sithole wrote a letter to Bishop Kadenge telling him to desist from intertwining his political activities with Church affairs but the latter had responded saying he would continue to be active in the Christian Alliance.
Shamuyarira concluded: “Don’t exaggerate issues because you have been instructed by the Alliance to disgrace Zimbabwe. Let us work together to limit corrupt activities and the capabilities of perpetrators.”
A Harare-based observer, Fortune Zishiri hit out at Bishop Kadenge saying it was “obvious from his words that he was not his own man and could not even grasp the full gravity and import of what he had said”.
“It’s sad whenever members of the clergy go out of their way to embarrass the Church by making such downright ludicrous claims. If the Bishop has nothing to say, it is advisable that he keep quiet and let other more intelligent people do the talking.
“I am not sure what exactly he wants Zimbabwe to apologise for. Does he also want us to apologise for taking up arms in the liberation war and asserting our right to chart our own destiny? Is he suggesting that it is a sin for Black Zimbabweans to rule themselves? Such sentiments do nothing to advance the cause of Zimbabwe’s development,” Zishiri said.
He added that statements like those made by Bishop Kadenge lent credence to government claims that the political opposition in Zimbabwe was a puppet grouping.
Radcliff-based commentator Augustine Timbe lambasted the Christian Alliance for its “myopia and lack of appreciation of the benefits of the Land Reform Programme” while an official with the Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union said Bishop Kadenge’s remarks were insensitive to those who had sacrificed their lives in the liberation struggle to see such a redistribution exercise take place in this country.
The official said: “Apart from the fact that many people have been empowered by the land tenure reforms, we must always bear in mind that thousands died in the war against the Ian Smith regime to see equitable land redistribution. Bishop Kadenge’s remarks are disgusting to say the least.”
The Bishop’s statement comes at a time when a progressive group of Church leaders has drafted a document called ‘Vision for the Nation’ that is ready for presentation to President Robert Mugabe.
The document was prepared by the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference (ZCBC), the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe (EFZ), the United Church of Christ in Zimbabwe (UCCZ) and the Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC).
In coming up with the document, the church leaders consulted among other political parties, Zanu PF, both factions of the MDC, the Democratic Party (DP), the United People’s Party (UPP) and Zanu (Ndonga).
In addition to this, a delegation of Christian leaders from Europe was recently in the country to offer their apologies for colonialism and slavery.