Zimbabwe: heroic pastor speaks at ecumenical day of prayer

 The Rev Ray Motsi, Pastor of Bulawayo City Baptist Church, gave the following address during the Ecumenical day of prayer at St Mary's Cathedral in Bulawayo on 18 January. The Zimbabwean Church is playing an ambiguous role in the nation because it is either noticed by its silence or involved by default, making itself an accomplice. The church should be other than the government, political party or the popular voice. By design it must be the conscience of the nation. There must be a fundamental but deliberate choice to maintain a critical distance between the Church and the state. I believe that when a prophet eats at the king's table he has lost his voice. Those that live near the chapel often cease to hear the chapel bell ringing. God is calling His people to make a stand for the truth and for what is right. Joshua posed a question to his people when they could not show where they stood. There was no fence and no gray area. "Choose whom to follow this day; but as for me and my family I will follow the Lord." Elijah put it this way: "For how long shall you waiver/vacillate between God and Baal?" I have been reading Mahatma Gandhi and Dr Martin Luther King Jnr. and I found out that the fundamental issues they stood for were the same. 1) They struggled against legal injustices, perpetrated against a section of the community. 2) There was violence and violation of human dignity and human rights. 3) There was suffering of the poor, minority, opposition, the voiceless and the powerless. 4) In all these cases it was the powerful, those that wielded the instruments of power, who used the national/state resources to perpetrate and enshrine themselves in position of privilege and power. They protect themselves from their own paranoia and reprisals from their victims and fear that their sins will find them out. The use of political legitimacy and political correctness and expediency is preferred rather than good governance, moral uprightness, which are God given and God honouring That is why it is true what the Bible says when an evil king gets to power the people groan and when a righteous man gets to power the nation rejoices. It is because of this experience and context of this suffering and groaning of the people of Zimbabwe that we as the Church and victims gather here today. I should hasten to say that this has been the experience of the people in Matabeleland and Midlands since 1980. Somehow the actor has not changed even though the script is being chipped and chopped daily. Changing the actor, or the script - or both ? A robber with a gun in his hand got onto a bus and demanded that the conductor empty his money into his bag. He proceeded to collect everybody's money as he went right down to the back of the bus. Suddenly an old man stood up from the front of the bus and went and smacked the robber on the head. He collapsed on the floor. Everybody praised the old man but the old man grabbed the robber's gun and continued to collect money from the passengers. What we need to do is to change both the script and the actors. Distorted power and unjust social and political relations are the seedbed for conflicts. Power relations and power leadership are the factors that contribute to violent conflicts. In Zimbabwe the legacy of violence underspread intimidation and rebellion employed during the struggle for liberation is now haunting the very people it purported to liberate. It has now choked the growth of the nation, politically, socially and economically. People who have a tradition of being handed out everything as in was cannot change to fend for themselves. Hence the demand to be given and the consumeristic tendencies. That is why we have military task forces instead of qualified and accountable people who should be assigned to deal with issues and problems. We have brigadiers, colonels and lieutenants running institutions and parastatals and so called was vets distributing food. Somehow it seemed that there was a coup, or declaration of a state of emergency, which brought about the military to take over the running of the country. What has happened to the cabinet ministers? We do not hear them these days? Something is very wrong. There is an outcry for peace, food justice and racial harmony because these have become pipe dreams never to be attained in our country. In Exodus we read from chapter 3 v.1. 12, that God said: "I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in (Zimbabwe) Israel and have heard their cry because of their taskmaster for I am aware of their sufferings." This is repeated in v. 9 & 16-17. Firstly, God said He has personally witnessed the sufferings of His people. I will not exegete on what the children of Israel went through today. But I will narrate for you the sufferings of the people of Zimbabwe and those in Bulawayo and Matabeleland. It is said that about 2000 people are dying every week from AIDS. One out of every four is HIV positive. The pandemic has hit everyone hence we talk of the infected and the affected. Monies have been levied from the working people. I have two brothers that passed away from AIDS and we never got a penny of our Zimbabwean Kwacha from this levy. Someone should explain when and how and who should access it. Talk about hunger as a bad combination of AIDS. Nobody can afford two meals a day in town. People in the rural areas go for days without having had a meal. They line up in major roads to pick up maize grains that fall from the big lorries as they transport it. To where, God knows. Animals, both wild and domesticated now hate humans because they compete for the roots and wild berries. Yes, we now have a new name. Zimbabwe is now called 'Quewait' and we all suffer from Queitus. Who is working in our remaining industries, office and schools when more people are now fast trekking and claiming the undesignated spaces on the roads near any filling stations, for the precious scarce liquid. The brain drain is so alarming that it is reported that there are not many pharmacists in the country at the moment. Doctors, nurses, artisans, teachers, accountants and technicians have all left. It is normal to now find a father with his children because Mum is in England, South Africa or Botswana working and common too, to find a twelve year old as the head of a household. The working class is now for less the dependents, young and old. The effect of Gukurahindi is still fresh and the results of the enquiry is a public secret and yet the paper is kept in some high secured office somewhere. What is the reason when the affected people are here in Matabeleland and are the living evidence and memory to remind all of us of what has happened. The perpetrators of these injustices are rewarded by promotion and are declared heroes when they die. But God is not mocked - whatever a man sows that he shall reap. He said: "Vengeance is mine. I will repay." Yes, God knows it all. He has seen it all. The violence perpetrated against ordinary people by the state sponsored uniformed forces and the impunity with which it is done is blatant and is disheartening. People die and disappear and yet nobody seems to be concerned let alone arrested. Every day we see and hear only one section of the political divide being dragged before the courts and we wonder who has declared some innocent and others guilty before they appear in a court of law. What has happened to the saying: "innocent until proved guilty?" Secondly, God said, He has heard the cry of His people. What a relief and a source of encouragement, in spite of the corruption in the country. There is some kind of rottenness not only to the core but from the fore. The politicizing of the police, army and the CIO is a cause for concern to us as the Church. These are to protect citizens and the Constitution of Zimbabwe, at least what is left of it. Shouldn't there be a distinction between the government and Zanu PF as a political party? The Green Bombers/National Service? What we have seen and witnessed from these young people, who come out of the Border Gezi camps is not patriotism but partisan and brainwashing of the worst kind. There is some national bigotry that claims the monopoly of truth and demands allegiance. The foreign currency dilemma affects the ordinary people more than the officials. Where should people go if the Bank couldn't give it. I am told reliably that even if they do it will be on the non-black market rate. The notorious new laws, which seem to be applied to a section of the community and not to all, must be revisited. The POSA/AIPPA and PVO to name but three. Yes, the selective application of the same laws concerns us the Church. There is lack of transparency in dealing with issues of national importance like that of the 'Updated of the Shona Elite' document, which seeks to drive the Ndebele and whites out of Zimbabwe. It should not be dismissed flippantly but dealt with in a manner that satisfies every Zimbabwean. There must be an enquiry to investigate and get to the bottom of this heinous piece of racial and tribal dissertation for genocide. The land issue is central to the Zimbabwean crises so some have been persuaded to believe. Why should Zanu PF and those that support it claim to be the only authority, benefactor and beneficiaries of it? This has managed to bring the class issue to light. It is now clear that those that have now have more. The poor, women and voiceless minority have now become more impoverished. Those that are rich are given loans to make themselves even filthy rich. The redressing of the historical imbalance and injustice must be done with all stakeholders involved. There must be equity, transparency and permanence. Justice like faith should not only be heard but seen to be done. The issue of governance is central to the whole crises in Zimbabwe, we believe as Churches. In governing a nation there are more people involved but in ruling there is one ruler. Bust mostly for a ruler to succeed he has to be despotic. A government should never be self-serving but the servant of the people. There is much confusion in the government as to who does what with the permanent secretaries, deputy ministers, ministers, resident ministers, governors, ministers of state and ministers in the President's or vice President's office. In a suffering and crisis nation is that necessary? These are the issues facing our nation and they are by no means exhaustive. It is in this context that the Church must operate. The Church must take its mandate so seriously. The Church is a very crucial agent of civic society. The Church has a mandate from God and not from the government. It is the prophetic voice and conscience of the nation. God in His self-revelation said to Moses: "Go talk to Pharaoh to let my people go that they may worship me. The church is called and commissioned. God through incarnational faith influences and transforms ordinary people and says to them: "Come and I will send you." Revelation is the self-exposure of God and an invitation to us to trust, know and respond to Him. The Church has the ministry of reconciliation, which is not just theological but social and political. We are ambassadors/representatives of God here on earth in Zimbabwe. The Church has two major roles: to be a priest/pastor on one hand and to be a prophet/advocate on the other. We pastor not only the believer but also the nation because there is one God. We are all created in His image. The Church must be pro-active because truth is from God. Anybody else is a borrower. Isaiah 58 v. 4 & 6-7 says: "Cry loudly. Do not hold back. Raise your voice like a trumpet and declare to my people their sin. True fast is to "loosen the bands of wickedness -----" v. 6-7 "----to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free and break every yoke, share your bread with the hungry and bring to your house the poor, who are cast out. When you see the naked, you cover him, not hide from your own flesh. Then your light shall break forth like the morning." We, therefore, as the Church call upon the government with all its resources, power and legal framework to work for the betterment of all Zimbabweans. There is no authority except that which is given by God. Nebuchanezzar, King of Babylon, in spite of his pride recognized that there was a god who rules in the realm of man. God is no respecter of persons. We call to the President of this nation to be a father and respect the Constitution of Zimbabwe. We are all concerned about the state of affairs and the unsustainable state of the economy. Allow me to close brothers and sisters, sons and daughters of Zimbabwe to "cry the beloved country" where things have fallen apart, with the apt words from one whose life and experience depict the cry of the majority of Zimbabweans. In the words of Dr Martin Luther King Jnr: "I say to you today my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have faith. It is a faith deeply rooted in the Christian heritage and scriptural certainty. I have a faith that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its values and nature of its people. We hold this truth be self evident that all men are created equal. I have faith that one day in the corridors of power in Harare sons of once enemies and sons of once victims will be able to sit down together at the table in a good Zimbabwean traditional culture. I have a faith that even in Matabeleland, sweltering with hurt and injustice, it will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice and peace. I have faith that my three little daughter will one day live in a nation where they are not judged by the colour of their skin or the language they speak or how they spell their second name but by the content of their character." A group of scientists were asked to do an experiment on mice. They put three mice into a jar and close it. The mice died after two minutes. They then put one in the same jar and closed it. After one minute they opened the jar and took it out for ten seconds and put it back again. It lasted three minutes. Upon being asked as to why and how it lasted that long. The scientists answered: "The mouse believed that the hand that lifted it up would still do it again. God has done it before. He will pull us out again. I believe Him when He said: "He has surely seen the suffering of people in Zimbabwe and their cry." I thank you.

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