Mayor Solomon Mguni stormed out of an interdenominational Cyclone Idai memorial prayer meeting held here on Sunday after one of the preachers poured scorn on Zanu-PF’s rivals.
The youthful mayor felt offended by pastor Frank Kunda after he showered praises on President Emmerson Mnangagwa, while attacking opposition parties for inviting sanctions in the country – thus politicising the event.
The event, held at Harvest House International Church’s headquarters – was in line with Mnangagwa’s declaration of two days of national mourning for more than 300 people who lost their lives after Cyclone Idai struck Chimanimani in Manicaland, as well as parts of Masvingo.
The mayor who was seated with his delegation right on the front chairs, surprised many when he led the walk out.
Ward one councillor, Mlandu Ncube who also attended the event said Kunda described Mnangagwa as God-sent.
“Pastor Kunda said Mnangagwa was chosen by God and he is aware of the opposition parties who are enemies of the State and God. Opposition parties will tow the line even if they don’t want,” Ncube told the Daily News.
“That was unexpected from a senior pastor like him; Imagine he turned the emotional Sunday service into a Zanu-PF praise rally.
“He praised Mnangagwa for ‘his visionary leadership and foresight’ which praise offended His Worship the mayor of the City of Bulawayo, Mguni and is delegation of seven councillors,” he added.
The mayor confirmed the incident saying it was unnecessary for a respectable man of God to politicise an interdenominational prayer event, worse coming on the background of hundreds having lost their lives in the recent deadly Cyclone Idai.
“The behaviour offends against the spirit of unity in diversity in the city and more particularly in that we had been invited to pray for victims of Cyclone Idai. There was, with respect, no need to politicise the process.
“It was a call to duty. It was a prayer service for the metropolitan province in view of the declaration of two days of mourning by Mnangagwa. People must distinguish a political party business from a government function,” said Mguni.
Kunda refused to comment, referring this reporter to the Harvest House Church’s founding leader, bishop Colin Nyathi.
“You will have to phone my senior pastor Nyathi, I am not empowered to speak to the media,” he said.
Nyathi could not be reached for comment.
Chimanimani district in Manicaland was where Cyclone Idai last hit with intensity before blowing itself out.
At least 300 people are thought to have died as a result of the cyclone with latest official figures revealing hundreds more injured and up to 5 000 displaced.
Chimanimani district remains one of the least accessible with many roads completely wiped away for several kilometres.
Destruction in the region is on a huge scale and a lack of safe drinking water remains an issue, with many water pipes having been blown away.
Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)’ team finally made access into the district on Thursday last week despite the heavy rock fall blocking roads and bridges having been completely washed away.
Many in the area have lost their homes and livelihoods as entire sections of towns were destroyed.
In an effort to rescue those affected, volunteer pilots, the armed forces of South Africa and Tanzania and international aid agencies on Thursday stepped up their activity in the areas.
The United States government also announced its military would join the effort while Britain has flown in tents and rescue kits as well as pledging £12m (€14m) for the humanitarian mission being mounted to feed and house hundreds of thousands who are now homeless.
MSF will also continue to provide assistance in the three countries.