Ervin Stutzman’s last day as executive director of Mennonite Church USA (MC USA) is April 30. I would like to thank him for his years […]
Barbara Nkala is the Mennonite World Conference representative for Southern Africa. This column first appeared in the January edition of The Mennonite magazine. Only a small portion of our print articles are shared online. Subscribe now to receive a year of The Mennonite each month.
The dramatic events in Zimbabwe were unexpected, unbelievable, unforeseen.
The saga started on Nov. 6, 2017, when vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa was fired on trumped-up charges. He fled to save his life, and his allies faced purging. The military intervened and took control of the country. Former president Robert Mugabe was put under house arrest and asked to step down.
The country held its breath. The church cried out to God for peace. Mugabe was defiant. Threats of being recalled and plans to impeach him were underway. Thousands of Zimbabweans surged into the streets to demand that Mugabe resign. They marched peacefully, mingling with soldiers. The corrupt police force was rendered inactive, and people rejoiced. Mugabe under gentle duress finally resigned, and there was euphoria in the nation.
Celebrations and jubilation followed. Masses rejoiced in the streets. No blood had been shed.
The church and others believed the unseen hand of God had orchestrated these startling events. The drama culminated in the fugitive former vice president being inaugurated as president on Nov. 24, 2017. The twists and turns of those days were like a sweet nightmare. Such peaceful transformation in Africa had been unthinkable.
This was a new dawn for Zimbabwe, which had had only one president, Mugabe, since independence in 1980. The first 10 to 12 years of his rule saw the country develop and blossom from its colonial legacy into what became popularly known as the breadbasket of Africa. After that came rapid economic decline. A spirit of greed, corruption and destruction reigned. Unemployment soared to 95 percent.
Beautiful Zimbabwe was brought to its knees and lay sprawled in the mud on its stomach. Its leadership seemed oblivious to the plight of the poor and suffering masses. Zimbabweans became a laughing stock.
How could one man hold the whole country at ransom? Why were the citizens so docile? Where was the church in all this? Often when I traveled, I would be asked, “What are Brethren in Christ doing about this?”
Indeed. The church cannot fold its hands and watch people languish under a ruthless dictatorship. The church should be the watchdog and voice of the suffering and oppressed. I would explain that a church was like a voice in the wilderness. To make its voice heard, the church spoke out under the umbrella of the three bodies under which the various denominations fell: the Zimbabwe Council of Churches, the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe (EFZ) and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference. Of late there is a fourth body, the Union of the Development of Apostolic Churches in Zimbabwe Association. The Brethren in Christ Church comes under the auspices of EFZ.
These organizations each made press statements, and their joint leadership made many visits for various pleas with the head of state. Church bodies jointly came together to pray many times, following 2 Chronicles 7:14.
My church has a monthly prayer diary titled Pray Without Ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Also, the first three church bodies had crafted a detailed document for discussion which was titled The Zimbabwe We Want: Toward a National Vision for Zimbabwe, which was considered when the new constitution was finalized in 2016. Points of discussion included past errors, mandate of church, vision and values, a homegrown constitution, national economic and social transformation, the land question, national reconciliation and forgiveness, and the way forward.
Despite the desperate lows Zimbabwe has experienced in the last three decades, the people have prayed, and God’s hand has rescued the nation from the brink of disaster many times. We continue to pray, and we firmly believe our prayers will beget peace and prosperity.
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