Tinomuda Chakanyuka, Senior Reporter
PROMINENT Bulawayo cleric Dr Prophet Blessing Chiza of the Eagle Life Assembly Church, has come under criticism for going political and fanning tribal divisions after he recklessly apologised “to Ndebele people on behalf of Shona people” for the post-independence civil disturbances commonly known as Gukurahundi.
Dr Prophet Chiza’s apology, captured on video during a recent church service, has seen the man of cloth receiving brickbats from social media users, who believe the prophet stepped out of line with his “publicity stunt”.
The cleric has been accused of trying to reconfigure history by blaming the political disturbances on the Shona tribe and attempting to turn what was a political conflict into an ethnic clash.
His apology comes after Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association Secretary-General Cde Victor Matemadanda said former President Mr Robert Mugabe was solely responsible for Gukurahundi, which he engineered for personal benefit.
In the 18-minute video that has since gone viral, Dr Prophet Chiza called forward all Ndebele speaking people in his congregation and kneels in front of the lined-up congregants to make his apology.
He goes on to claim that he had been sent by God to apologise before boastfully declaring that he was not a small prophet but a “great man of God.”
“The Lord said I must kneel down on behalf of all the Shonas in Zimbabwe to ask for forgiveness from the Ndebele people,” he said.
The cleric adds, “We murdered you, we killed you as Shonas. We committed massacres and atrocities which were evil in this land as Shona people. And as a Shona blood person, I’m asking for forgiveness to (sic) all Ndebele people in Zimbabwe and all Ndebele people in the diaspora and all over the world for what we — Shonas did to you during the Gukurahundi time.”
Dr Prophet Chiza goes on to falsely claim that he was the first person, among church leaders and politicians, to initiate a process of reconciliation over the 1980s disturbances.
His barefaced remarks are despite there being a National Peace and Reconciliation Commission that was put in place by the Government to lead the process of justice, healing and reconciliation over the post-independence strife.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa in January this year signed the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission Bill (NPRC) into law to operationalise the Commission that was appointed in 2016.
Prophet Chiza flagrantly claimed, “There’s no man of God who has ever done it, there is no politician who has ever done it.
“When it happened I was young. I saw it and it touched my heart that there is no politician that is willing to own up to these things and God said begin it as a prophet, begin the reconciliation process in Zimbabwe.”
Political analyst Mr Michael Mhlanga said Dr Prophet Chiza’s stunt was an attempt of rewriting and distorting history.
“Gukurahundi is and was political violence hence it should be regarded accordingly,” he said.
“His apology is a wrong reconfiguration of a violence constituency which misrepresents ethnicity as the epicentre of the 1983 killings instead of political individuals who should be accountable to political and criminal justice,” added Mr Mhlanga.
Mr Mhlanga said Dr Prophet Chiza, as a spiritual leader should not be found misconstruing pleas that create a worse travesty than already there was.
“He should have apologised in his personal capacity, not on behalf of an ethnic group which did not consent to the 1983 misgivings and from whom we find other Gukurahundi victims,” said Mr Mhlanga.
Zapu spokesperson Mr Iphithule Thembani Maphosa described Dr Prophet Chiza’s apology as grossly misplaced and ill-timed.
“While we appreciate he is a man of God, we really feel his so-called apology is grossly misplaced, ill-timed and reminiscent of unacceptable handling and abuse of the word of God. It is irresponsible leadership as he leads the innocent but vulnerably gullible astray,” he said.
Mr Maphosa said Dr Prophet Chiza was wrong in painting the Shona tribe as responsible for the disturbances, urging the cleric to stick to ministering the word of God.
“He paints all people of Shona extraction as responsible for the genocide, which is horribly wrong of him. Chiza must concentrate on the word of God, saving souls and leave the Gukurahundi genocide to the responsible people and the victims,” he said.
Dr Prophet Chiza also received brickbats on social media with many people across the country’s tribal divide disagreeing with the man of God, while some accused him of fanning tribal divisions by his latest stunt.