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Rationalising matters of morality
In a well-calculated pre-emptive denunciation of colonialism, he raised issues of post-independence governance, hoping his fawned anti-colonial tirade had secured him all-time insurance against instant retort founded on the historical culpability of the Anglican Church as a partner in genocidal colonialism.
And of course the well-attended church service in Harare gave him and his Gandiya faction an illusion of carrying the bigger moiety of the deeply divided church. Here and ahead of his arrival, the church had distanced itself from homosexuality, stressing the Church did not condone such a moral monstrosity. The announcement was a calculated pre-emption, meant to leave Kunonga and his group with no cause, no grievance.
Later, the Archbishop would seal the argument through a highly intellectualised argument to the effect that the Church, while scornful of homosexuality, respected homosexuals as human beings entitled to dignity and respect in their deviance. After all, American churches which had sanctified homosexuality belonged to another province which had no lordship over the rest. That way, the matter was deposed. Or so the Archbishop thought.
The dossier for publicity
Sanctions? Well, the Archbishop insisted he had not been favoured with evidence of hurtful sanctions in the country and thus could not react to the matter. As far as he had heard and read, sanctions in Zimbabwe were targeted. And to overwrite this touchy subject, he presented the President with a dossier on the persecution of the Anglican Church in Zimbabwe, urging the President to intervene to end it.
The dossier was soon published on the internet for wider reading. It thus became a public document, never privileged communication between a Church anxious for some resolution and a Head of State whose intervention it implored. And like most Western officials, the Archbishop had also been asked to assess the health and mental acuity of the President. To the disappointment of those interested in that side of the President, the Archbishop gave the man a clean bill of health, at least as confirmed by the faith stethoscope!
Flying a British Kite
Now let's deal with the hard balls of this narrative, without fear, without favour. The decision by the Archbishop to visit Harare generated lots of controversies within Britain itself. Would he be well received? Would he not present Mugabe with a propaganda coup? Would he not legitimise Mugabe, thereby redeeming him from splendid isolation?
Such worries, so acutely and fervently put, attested to the fact that in the visit, the British State was in fact breaking with its self-imposed protocol, to initiate contacts with President Mugabe and his Government. It had invested heavily in the visit which played deep stick to bilateral relations. Indeed, the Archbishop received the courtesies of a foreign official, including State security.
Alongside that visit was an opinion filtered through a think-tank linked to the British establishment. This Commonwealth think-tank suggested the impending Chogm be used to make overtures to Zimbabwe.
Expectedly, a British Minister moved in to shoot down the suggestion, seemingly making tougher demands on Zimbabwe. But the purpose had been served: the balloon had been flown, the idea of re-engaging Zimbabwe had been placed in the public domain without binding the British Government, indeed with all the safeguards against a public fallout well in place.
Indeed, opinion leaders in quality British papers proceeded to hail Lambeth for having a better foreign policy than Whitehall, urging the British Government to do better! One perfectly understands the game in town. It would be quite naive, if not foolish, for the divided Anglican church to visualise itself as the subject matter of the week. Simply, it was not. Much worse, it would be downright silly and idealistic for its bishops to imagine their differences can find resolution outside of the abiding question pitting Zimbabwe against Britain, indeed finding play in sanctions.
So many questions for Gandiya
Which takes me to my first charge against Bishop Gandiya and all those he leads. Why did he not prepare a dossier against sanctions for presentation to the Archbishop? Does he think this country is not under sanctions? Does he think that his Anglican laity, Elijah-like, enjoy a sanctions-free universe that hovers above all of us, flying well beyond and above sanctions and the travails they spawn?
Or is his denial of sanctions secular, in which case he needs to tell us in what way it differs from that of MDC-T? Could this provide a clue to the politics of his faction in the church, as well as its appeal to the mother church in Britain which is at one with the British Government both historically and in terms of contemporary politics? That the issue of gays is but the icing on the cake to this untoward dalliance?
Clearly the effort in compiling a dossier on alleged persecution is just about what was required in compiling a dossier on sanctions which have affected church schools, hospitals, orphanages, followers, etc, etc. Or is the church unconcerned, the same way it was under Ian Smith except where white interests are concerned? I hope the good bishop noticed that among the worshipers who came to meet the Archbishop were Zanu-PF office holders who cannot be indifferent to sanctions, and whose presence cannot be interpreted as endorsement of his politics with their attendant blind sports.
My second question to the bishop gets me agitated. At no time did the bishop seek audience with the President. Why? Was he waiting for the Archbishop's intercession? To achieve what? Personal profile? Greater damnation for the President? A strong image of a persecuted Church later to translate to greater gifts to that church? Clearly there are real moral and political issues which are at stake and which will not go away.
While the local church thinks it has ducked the issue of gays and their so-called rights, hardly had the Archbishop's footmarks evaporated on our land than had the British Government announced a policy tying its own overseas aid support to gay rights. The British State is clearly enforcing an eleventh commandment through its alleged financial power over the Third World.
The idea of a local bishop by-passing the State President and the Committee set up to resolve that matter, to reach a British Archbishop reeks of ecclesiastical colonialism of the worst order. Such a disposition does not build a national church; rather, it builds some church in Zimbabwe appended to Lambeth. Needless to say such power relations in an institution so steeped in history and governmental politics implies not just a political outlook, but also a disturbing answer to the current stand-off between Britain and Zimbabwe.
However holy this holy man of Lambeth may be, he cannot be our father who art in Britain, and Bishop Gandiya should know that. He is a mere believer whose efforts heavenwards trigger numerous questions in all of us, whether religious or cultural.
Overrunning national institutions
Bishop Gandiya did more to entangle his own skein. He went to the courts. Later, he abandoned the same courts, followed by a not so holy scent of a bad loser. He turned to Lambeth, denouncing a national institution of the Bench which he had freely accosted, before which he had placed holy matters he and his brethren should have resolved anyway, well away from secular institutions.
As I write, he is back in the courts, and has just been awarded a favourable judgement. What attitude does he now adopt with regards to the Bench? That it is good and competent only when he wins? It is a very poor showing by a holy man, but also a showing passing as a reminiscent echo from a political party we know from some electoral past.
Could we be looking at the same strategy and tactic? Looking at the same brains behind the same campaign whose objective is ultimately to trash the Bench? I have a problem with politics which seek to overrun national institutions and discourse, while apotheosising the outsider as the answer we are looking for.