Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa is facing harsh criticism from members of the Anglican Church after he used a church pilgrimage event to campaign for votes in the upcoming election.
Mnangagwa, along with his VP Constantino Chiwenga and Zanu PF chair Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri, visited the Benard Mizeki pilgrimage in Marondera last week where he pleaded with congregants to support him at the ballot box.
But the politicization of the religious event has angered many members who say it violated the sanctity of the church.
A former Anglican Bishop blasted: “The Anglican church cannot be associated with people who have failed to address the issues Zimbabweans face. It is not a political field.”
Another churchgoer fumed: “Why are our bishops inviting politicians now? We are not politicians. Let them fix the economy first and leave us as clean Anglicans.”
And a member from St Anne’s Goto raged: “They want to tarnish our image by dragging politicians into the church. This is something else. We have not experienced this before.”
However, Manicaland Diocesan leader Bishop Eric Ruwona dismissed the critics, insisting congregants were “happy” to hear from Mnangagwa.
He claimed: “As a church we have been praying for the nation and President. When the President addressed us we were all happy. The congregants were happy. Everyone was happy.”
But disgruntled members accuse Ruwona of downplaying their objections, with one source claiming: “There is division within the church over this issue. Not everyone supports politicizing religious events.”
The controversy suggests Mnangagwa’s election campaigning may be causing cracks even in institutions that traditionally support the ruling party.