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Church leaders join the fray

A new group of church leaders calling itself the Christian Alliance was formed to give Christians in Zimbabwe a common leadership and goal.

Some of the leaders of the new group were Bishop Levee Kadenge of the Methodist Church, Pastor Ray Motsi of the Bulawayo Baptist Church and Pastor Vimbai Mugwidi of the Methodist Church.

The Alliance claimed to have the “mandate of the poor people” and claimed to have deeper ties to the grassroots than their largely discredited traditional leaders.

It also said it was the body with the moral standing to bring together the warring factions of the Movement for Democratic Change.

 

Full cable:


Viewing cable 06HARARE1056, NEW RELIGIOUS GROUP OFFERS WAY FORWARD

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

06HARARE1056

2006-08-29 14:13

2011-08-30 01:44

CONFIDENTIAL

Embassy Harare

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FM AMEMBASSY HARARE

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0528

INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY

RUEHUJA/AMEMBASSY ABUJA 1301

RUEHAR/AMEMBASSY ACCRA 1151

RUEHDS/AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA 1305

RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN 0066

RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 0566

RUEHDK/AMEMBASSY DAKAR 0931

RUEHKM/AMEMBASSY KAMPALA 1359

RUEHNR/AMEMBASSY NAIROBI 3733

RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 1128

RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME 1770

RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC

RUFGNOA/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE

RUFOADA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK

RUEKDIA/DIA WASHDC

RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC

RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS

RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 1516

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 001056

 

SIPDIS

 

SIPDIS

 

AF/S FOR S. HILL

SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR C. COURVILLE

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/29/2015

TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL ZI

SUBJECT: NEW RELIGIOUS GROUP OFFERS WAY FORWARD

 

 

Classified By: Ambassador Christopher Dell for reasons 1.5 b/d

 

——-

Summary

——-

 

1. (SBU) During their visit to Harare, staffdel visitors met

with the religious leaders spearheading the Christian

Alliance (CA), a new opposition grouping that seeks to unite

all anti-GOZ forces. Born out of the Church’s efforts last

year to help those affected by Operation Restore Order, the

religious leaders said the CA was a grassroots organization

that was more responsive to the needs of the people than the

GOZ-appointed heads of denomination. According to the

leaders, the CA is a neutral grouping of forces working for

democratic reform and was already showing results with a

successful conference in late July that brought together the

leaders of the two MDC factions. End Summary.

 

———————————–

Congressional Staffers Visit Harare

———————————–

 

2. (U) On a mission to assess the unfolding political and

economic crisis in Zimbabwe, Majority Staffer Gregory

Simpkins and Minority Staffer Pearl-Alice Marsh from the

House of Representatives International Relations Committee

and Minority Staffer Heather Flynn from the Senate Foreign

Relations Committee visited Harare August 22-25. In addition

to meeting with religious leaders, the staffdel met civil

society leaders, labor union representatives, businesspeople,

and government officials (Septels).

 

—————————

New Church Alliance Emerges

—————————

 

3. (SBU) Methodist Church Bishop Levee Kadenge told the

staffdel that the CA was a loose grouping of Church leaders

across the country that had come together to give Christians

in Zimbabwe a common leadership and goal. Kadenge, who is

also the CA’s informal leader, said that Zimbabwean

Christians from all denominations saw themselves as a

catalyst for democratic change. Bulawayo Baptist Church

Pastor Ray Motsi added that CA was born out the Church’s

collective support of those affected by Operation Restore

Order. According to Methodist Church Pastor Vimbai Mugwidi,

the group’s success was in part due to the power of prayer,

which in addition to being a means of communicating with God

was also a useful mobilization and lobbying tool.

 

4. (SBU) Asked by the staffdel how the CA related to the

GOZ-appointed denomination heads, Motsi said that the new

grouping had deeper ties to the grassroots as opposed to the

largely discredited traditional leaders. Motsi commented

that the CA had the “mandate of the poor people.” Church

members were not fooled and recognized that the traditional

religious leaders had been co-opted by ZANU-PF. In fact,

Mosti said that many denomination heads were likely to be

removed from office later this year by Church members unhappy

with the leadership’s overtures to government. Nonetheless,

the government was pressuring the CA to work with pro-GOZ

Church leaders and was intimidating those religious leaders

who refused.

 

———————————————

Offers New Approach, Neutral Opposition Venue

———————————————

 

5. (SBU) Motsi said the CA offered a new approach to bring

Church members together in a common voice. Although the CA

 

HARARE 00001056 002 OF 002

 

 

was concerned by political conditions, the grouping had no

political agenda and only sought to address the needs of

average Church goers. It was therefore a neutral force

within the country’s otherwise polarized opposition politics.

 

6. (SBU) Kadenge said that the CA had scored a major victory

with the successful “Save Zimbabwe” Convention on July 29

that was attended by most of civic society and all of the

opposition parties. Organizers initially planned for 300

attendees, but were quickly overwhelmed when 500 participants

arrived. Kadenge told the staffers that only the Church had

the moral standing required to bring together MDC faction

leaders Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara at the same

podium and produce the now famous photograph of the handshake.

 

7. (SBU) Commenting on the CA’s next steps, the group’s

strategist Jonah Gokova said the Church leaders needed to

take risks in order to change the impression of Zimbabweans

as a passive people. Youth Pastor Useni Sibanda noted that

participants in the CA march in Bulawayo in May carried

Bibles, which offered them some protection from the usually

intimidating police. Gokova said that the CA sought to

mobilize the diaspora as both a source of funding and as

another pro-reform voice. The group also had to confront

regional perceptions of the conflict in Zimbabwe being purely

a racial issue. The current image of Mugabe as a liberation

war hero was misplaced, according to Gokova, as black

Zimbabweans bore the brunt of the GOZ’s abusive policies.

 

——-

Comment

——-

 

8. (C) Against the backdrop of a fractured and

inward-looking political opposition and a largely ineffectual

civil society, the emergence of the Christian Alliance is a

potentially significant political development. It is

becoming an increasingly powerful voice for unity, reform,

and – most importantly – action, whose reach and strength

will be tested in the coming months.

 

9. (U) The staffdel did not have an opportunity to clear

this cable before leaving Harare.

DELL

 

(4 VIEWS)

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