HARARE – A 95-year-old church leader commanding a million-plus followers has crossed swords with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC, which accuses him of undermining the party amid concerns that Zanu PF is abusing churches.
The MDC is denouncing Paul Mwazha, leader of the massively-followed African Apostolic Church, for allegedly propping President Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF in his sermons. Mwazha is on an evangelical crusade countrywide.
He torched controversy with MDC leaders in Mashonaland East Province last week when addressing a multitude, allegedly urging people to vote for President Robert Mugabe. Mwazha says he is neutral and the allegations are hogwash.
MDC councillor for Ward 1 Archibald Mudimu, however, said Mwazha’s open- air sermon at Munyawiri Secondary School in Chinamhora was full of anti-MDC sloganeering.
“He has held two meetings in Goromonzi West and we know that he has been preaching against our party leader Morgan Tsvangirai telling his church members to vote for Zanu PF and Robert Mugabe in the elections,” said Mudimu.
“We don’t want him any more in our area as he is preaching politics,” said Mudimu. African Apostolic Church general secretary Richard Juru denied that Mwazha was preaching politics at the crusades but was praying for all national political leaders.
“We pray for our inclusive government leaders that is President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and other cabinet ministers.
“Maybe some of the political leaders are feeling that they are being left out, but we don’t segregate against anyone as we don’t want to be engaged in politics. But there is nothing wrong if we pray for President Mugabe because he is the national leader,” said Juru.
“I invite you to our church sermon and you can hear for yourself prophet Mwazha preach and hear whether he is segregating against Prime Minister Tsvangirai,” he said.
As the country enters the campaign season ahead of general elections, Zimbabwe’s political parties have gone all out to woo voters found in churches.
Mugabe, his deputy Joice Mujuru and a host of his party officials have been frequenting church services mainly for the apostolic faith in a bid to hook up voters in this hugely popular movement.
While generally a fan of controversial Nigerian preacher and “miracle man” TB Joshua, Tsvangirai has also been on a whirlwind drive to associate with churches. In partnership with some churches, he was recently on a tour of the country meeting grassroots people in a programme dubbed prayer rallies.
Despair arising from deep seated poverty and unemployment – two signs of the failure of the coalition government– has forced millions to turn to churches for hope. Largely a Christian country, Zimbabwe has seen a mushrooming of different types of churches.
From prosperity gospel powerhouses such as Emmanuel Makandiwa’s United Family International Church to small groups congregating under trees, churches are taking centre stage in Zimbabweans’ lives.
With elections possibly less than six months away, Zimbabwe is likely to see an intensification of churches playing a leading role in voter mobilisation. Daily News