Politicians have no monopoly over governance and the church has every right to assert its demands for justice, social participation and accountability as long as it is a citizen of the State.
The call to embolden the church comes as government and ruling party officials have been spiritedly pushing back on the church’s recent voicing concerns on the country’s seemingly worsening human rights abuse record.
Dr Solomon Mungure – a leading peace and governance expert speaking on the sidelines of a Zimbabwe Heads of Christian Denominations (ZHOCD) provincial training of church leaders, political leaders and traditional leaders on devolution at Mutare Diocesan Training Centre Tuesday also slammed attempts to muzzle the church on critical issues.
“As long as the church is a citizen of the State it can be an actor… I’m still very skeptical about why politicians don’t want the church to say anything about politics when they are failing to deliver on their mandate on key governance issues,” Mungure said.
Mungure, who was the main presenter in the training of over 40 church leaders from mainline, Pentecostal and apostolic churches under Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe (EFZ), Union for Development of Apostolic Churches in Zimbabwe (UDACIZA), Zimbabwe Council of Churches and Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference (ZCBC) which form ZHOCD together with councillors and traditional leaders, said there was no plausible reason to ringfence politicians from censor by the church.
“There should not be any brick-wall around politics… after all they are not doing well so why fence out people and institutions that might even hold the solutions to current problems.
“Its an open cheque and everyone should venture into it. If the church can deliver justice let it do whatever it can do to achieve it,” Mungure said.
ZHOCD, which in 2006 produced the Zimbabwe We Want document and led subsequent efforts to promote peace, tolerance, harmony and development amidst serious political polarization and violence, is currently complementing government by strengthening the role of the church in promoting social cohesion and civic participation within devolution processes.
The body which is currently being chaired by ZCBC hopes to assist its membership to contribute through highlighting local issues, needs and solutions. It is currently implementing the project in Manicaland, Masvingo and Midlands provinces.
Mungure said the church should not budge on its mandate to humanity as informed by its Christian social principles that brought the diverse religious bodies together – sanctity of life, dignity of the human person, stewardship of creation, the common good, option for the poor, participation and inclusiveness, subsidiarity and solidarity.
He challenged the clergy to train its members – from laity to clergy, to demand accountability of all public funds from church offerings to government taxes in taking up their role in the devolution processes.
“Train your members to demand accountability from church offerings to government taxes… You should not make noise on government resources while you fail to account for church funds,” he said.
He also urged the church, politicians and traditional leaders to foster public participation in all tiers of government by encouraging scrutiny of all government institutions and public companies.
“The church should promote public participation of its broad membership in all tiers of government from national to local government structures by tapping into expertise among its membership to explain and sharing information of public companies so that resources do not continue to disappear,” Mungure said noting that it had all the experts within its broad membership to expertly do it.
He said every citizen must be encouraged to express themselves on their aspirations in all its forms inclusive of individuals that lead it, institutions and the laws that govern their conduct.
“We should all, in our individual capacities, register our aspirations to government in all its tiers from central government to the local taking into cognizance that government is not only the people but its institutions and the laws that govern them,” Mungure said.
Tafirenyika Sabwe another developmental consultant said the involvement of the church to help expand individual liberties and enhance public accountability.
“If development aims to expand the freedoms people value and religion is important then religious freedoms should be part of development…
“Corruption will also be a thing of the past if the church intervenes in the developmental agenda that devolution is fostering,” Sabwe said.
Udaciza coordinator and Zviratidzo Zvevapositori women’s leader Ureta Danda described the training as liberating as it broke perceived barriers to their participation in critical developmental issues.
“Our participation in government activities and programmes as our eyes were opened to the mandate of the church in protecting human life, fostering transparency and ending injustices,” Danda said.