The General Election is now well under way in the UK. The three major parties (and some of the others) have launched their manifestos and the media are churning out words and graphics like there is no tomorrow… which there won’t be if some parties get their way. The people I have spoken with in the last couple of days are smitten with a bewildered apathy that is sceptical about the content within the rhetoric of the party leaders and spokespeople.

I was particularly intrigued by the Tories’ push to get people out volunteering in their communities. Er… haven’t they noticed the huge amount of volunteers already active in their communities through churches and other organisations that gain no benefit other than to serve their communities? Maybe they have. But, what I will be looking for is a government that will stop inundating schools with initiatives, recognise the problems of getting governors able to handle the task demanded of them, and stop trying to get good governance on the cheap. (Oh, and get rid of the soul-destroying box-ticking culture that the Tories brought in under Thatcher and New Labour made even worse.)

However, whoever wins the election, there won’t be any vast ideological change in the life of the country. Contrast our apathy and cynicism with that of another country with which I am familiar and have close links: Zimbabwe.

The rule of law is simply disregarded under Robert Mugabe. He may be recognised as ‘the Liberator’ by some Africans, but he has gone on to preside over the ruin of his country and the oppression of his people. The Anglican Church in Zimbabwe has borne the brunt of targeted violence and persecution for many years. The corrupt ex-Bishop of Harare, Dr Nolbert Kunonga, has been excommunicated by the Anglican Communion and is not recognised as an Anglican Bishop. The same goes for Elson Jakazi in Manicaland. Yet, despite court rulings in favour of the Anglican Province and dioceses (in relation to property and freedom to worship), Kunonga intimidates faithful Anglicans and gets backing from the police. So much for the rule of law.

This is the latest from Harare, where other denominations are now beginning to recognise that this is not an intra-Anglican (or ‘just a church’) problem, but a human rights problem that goes to the heart of the country’s culture:

Our experience over the last two weeks is that the persecution seems to have intensified. Police are openly telling our people to attend Dr. Kunonga’s services only and continue to prohibit them from worshipping in their churches as per Judge President Makarawu’s judgment and Justice Bhunu’s judgment of the 3rd March 2010. The former allowed for sharing of church buildings for worship until the courts give their final judgment on the matter and the latter endorsed that judgment. Whereas in the past some of our congregations used to hold their services outside of their church buildings, the police are driving them away telling them that they cannot meet outside anywhere near the church buildings. We are completely baffled by the behavior of the Zimbabwe Republic Police in this matter. We have persistently asked why they are being used to prop up Dr. Kunonga by actively telling people that our church properties belong to him and therefore our members should attend his Church services only. Nobody has given us any answers. We continue to raise our grave concern over the police partisan involvement in the affairs of our church, abuse of our rights and disregard of Court Orders and Rulings. We also continue to ask; Who will police the police? Have they officially become a law unto themselves? To whom can we turn for help? Who will listen to our plight?

Last Sunday 11/04/2010

  1. Police went to St. Mark’s Church, Ruwa and drove our members away from both the church and church premises. When the congregation decided to meet at the priest’s house the police prohibited them from doing so. What right do they have to stop even this? The priest of this church received a text message from Kunonga’s priest telling him not to use the church or else “what they did at St. Faith’s Church, Budiriro will happen to them”. St. Faith’s Church, Budiriro is where riot police tear-gassed our people on a Sunday morning and then followed it up on a Thursday afternoon with tear-gassing Mother’s Union members who were worshipping away from the church in the open air. This is further proof of that Dr. Kunonga’s priests are working in cahoots with the police.
  2. Our Cathedral congregation was told by the police not to meet anywhere near the Cathedral next week or else they will face the wrath of the police.
  3. At Holy Trinity Church, Ruwa acting Officer-in-Charge assistant Inspector Ngoshi and Sergeant Major Chibaya force number 044621A drove our congregation out telling them that they had orders to stop their service because they were to leave the Church to Kunonga’s group even though he hasn’t got a single member in that area.
  4. At St. Alban’s Church, Chiweshe where I had gone for a Confirmation Service- the church doors were welded from inside and so we could not go in as we had intended. We only managed to remove a pin on one of the hinges but could not go in. As a result we had our service in the open air. Rev’d. Mangava, Kunonga’s resident priest/untrained teacher called the police telling them that we had broken into the church. Police arrived just before the end of our service only to find a pin that had been removed and nothing broken. For that, about six people including the two priests who were with me had to go to Glendale police station to give evidence – a process that took forever. I followed them. No charges were brought against them but we reported the damage that was caused to our church building by the welding of doors and other devices used to prevent us from going in. We await a court hearing. What’s amazing is the ease with which even Dr. Kunonga’s priests call the police, tell them what to do and how they in turn easily comply.
  5. A number of our congregations are using other denominations church buildings (we are very grateful for their generosity) while some use school buildings and others continue to meet in the open air.

Thank you for your messages of solidarity and assurances of your prayer support. We don’t lose heart in spite of all the challenges we are facing.

This is the tip of an oppressive iceberg. It puts the niceties of our UK election in perspective, but also compels us to recognise the importance of valuing democracy, not taking for granted the rule of law, and taking responsibility for shaping our own country’s future.

Nkosi sikelel iAfrica.