|MANHERU:-Rowan Williams: Between Lambeth and Harare|
|Friday, 14 October 2011 22:00|
Mugabe and the White African" is in essence a David and Goliath story. Appalled by the state-orchestrated crimes against humanity on a massive scale countrywide, with horrific violence perpetrated against white commercial farmers, their farm workers and the rural population, a farming family takes on President Mugabe's government in a landmark court case heard by the Sadc Tribunal in Windhoek, Namibia. They know the risks, but they believe it is what God requires of them.
Set on Mount Carmel farm in the Chegutu district of Zimbabwe, this deeply moving book is the chronicle of a Christian family's struggle to survive, to protect the land it purchased legally from the government, and to protect the lives and livelihoods of all those working on the farm.
The British State in Devotion
The past week has been a significant one for the Anglican Church, itself a schismatic offshoot of the Catholic Church, and the official Church of the State in the United Kingdom.
The Anglican Church has evolved as the British State in worship or devotion. A cursory reading of the evolution of the British political and governmental system will clearly show its crucial near-ethereal role as the earthly agent for God's benediction on the British Monarch, the State, its apparatus and its minions.
The man who turned 80
The day Tibet divided South Africa
The Archbishop was furious, as was the Western world which has heavily invested in the spiritual leader to keep the sides of the rising dragon needled all the time by uncomfortable questions, uncomfortable situations. The script abroad was the Zuma Government had succumbed to pressure from the Chinese Government which would look dimly at any profile-raising concessions to it's spiritually suffused opponent.
This was condemnable in the extreme, went the Western script and its multiple echoes in our subcontinent. Zuma, added these magisterial voices, had yet again fumbled on foreign policy, with Zimbabwe, Libya and many other areas being cited in accusatory illustration.
Seeking an expensive Birthday gift
This attack on Zuma, much of it quite gratuitous, should be deposed of with the swiftness it deserves. From flashes of anger which the media recorded from Archbishop Tutu, it is clear the cleric expected an expensive gift from the South African government, all to mark the occasion. He expected the South African government to indulge him, all to the value of billion upon billions of dollars in Chinese trade which South Africa was sure to forego in consequence.
That was going to be the dollar value of the gift Tutu expected from the South African Government. Turn that into jobs, or some other welfare index, and you graphically quantify the sacrifice Tutu hoped from South Africa's poor, never mind that the link between trade with China and benefits to the poor should never be posited as obviously given.
I have not yet mentioned the fact that South Africa and China both belong to Brics, an alliance which we all hope can be nurtured into a meaningful counterpoise to arrogant American and European global dominance.
What was being asked of Zuma was that Tutu's birthday soar above the foreign policy of South Africa, indeed play first fiddle to South Africa's strategic interests in Asia. No one cared to explain how and why a matter between China and the West, a matter between China and her religiously recalcitrant citizen, should excise South Africa. Or why a citizen of South Africa, simply on the strength of worn-out Anglican robes, should found and consecrate friendship outside of, insensitive to, and defiant of the foreign policy concerns of his government and State. Or why he should piously remonstrate with that offended State for not bending low to wipe clean his dirty feet and sandals, so entangled in a worthless of ecumenical friendship.
Bad for the gander
However much their liberal media howled - and howl they did - all the leaders steered clean of any controversies, indeed punctiliously ensured great China was not, would not be, offended by extraneous issues, including human rights and the rights of the Tibetan people as led by their spiritual leader.
Above all, how come the Queen never invites the Dalai Lama on the occasion of her birthday? Or Robert Mugabe? Or wa Mutharika? Or Ahmadinejad? Or Chavez? Or Castro? Or better still the spiritual leader in Iran?
Bitterly divided Anglicans
Appropriately, the Archbishop could not peg enormous cosmic goals to his mission. Unlike the Catholic Church whose spiritual epicentre is the Vatican, whose spiritual head is the Pope, the Anglican church pretends a diffused, non-hierarchical order whose hub is the "province" in a given geographical region which must give direction to parishes under it. As is now well known, the province of Central Africa to which the Zimbabwean Anglican Church is, or was, affiliated, depending of course on where you stand vis-à-vis the current controversy, was torn apart a few years back on account of the gay question. It is a divided church, bitterly divided.
Divided by Caesar's things
The rich simmer in the pot
The Anglican pulpit has been heavily politicised and I challenge any of its bishops to swear by the holy book that they have not pledged their allegiance to competing political parties, to the princes of power! That situation has created quite an explosive concoction for the church: gays, land, property and politics. You add the issue of relations with Britain, and the pot simply gets thicker than poor porridge after a very long simmer. I am not even bringing in the juridical dimension. Such is the church the archbishop came to, and it is not a surprise he needed a large entourage from the whole Province to fortify his own courage.
In fact the sending church in the UK was more excited about the trip than the host society, never mind the jostling and jockeying that visibly picked pitch within the Zimbabwean Anglican church itself. That was hardly new to this quarrelsome church. But the moment the Archbishop spoke of raising the issue of division and persecution in the Anglican Church with President Mugabe, aggressive interest gathered within the country. The Archbishop's homily inside the country reinforced this eagerness to engage him.
Rationalising matters of morality
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
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
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.
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.
So many questions for Gandiya
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?
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.
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
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.
Dressing sin in Anglican robes
In fact, the book has two Anglican voices, one from Tutu and another from Archbishop Sentamu. Curiously Sentamu is Ugandan-born Anglican cleric now ministering in York, in Britain. More curiously, the endnote to his preface to the same book reads: "We, the people of Britain and the United Nations, need to hear the voices of our own consciences and heed the cries of the suffering people of Zimbabwe."
The South African Archbishop mistakenly thinks Freeth and his ilk lost land they had bought from the Zimbabwe Government. Freeth himself does not feel burdened to say so in his narrative, which clearly related to a settler community whose land rights preceded Zimbabwe. Was the archbishop misled? Did he write the foreword? Archbishop Tutu thinks he is defending a Christian "white African". Freeth does not feel constrained to prove his African parentage, real or vicarious. He clearly visualises himself as a superior white man from Scotland, subsequently adopted by settler Rhodesia, and seeking to exorcise the powerful evil demon afflicting the otherwise "noble African savage". And I am not quoting Joseph Conrad. I am quoting Tutu's Christian Freeth.
As I write, the Sadc Tribunal which Tutu worshipfully regards as that which sets right the sins of this world, has been disbanded by a full Summit of Sadc. Again Tutu has wrong-footed his Governments, all for personal fame. To all that add his demand soon after South Africa's independence, demand that Zimbabwe releases white terrorists who had bombed ANC cadres here, and a worrisome picture emerges, fully dressed in Anglican robes. What has become of the Anglican Church? Can someone tell me? Icho!