Mugabe’s Sects Appeal Wears Off

The Zimbabwe Independent discusses links between Robert Mugabe and several disgraced leaders of religious sects, in somewhat polemical language:

[Mugabe’s Zanu-PF] party has poked its snout into the religious trough and allowed itself to feed on the sect membership to boost its ranks in a desperate effort to maintain superiority…The ruling Zanu PF party exploited the religious charisma of the sect leaders to bolster its membership hoping to reverse diminishing support since 2000. It has courted sect leaders to woo their members to boost its ranks.

However, this is has now all backfired:

…So far two prominent sect leaders have tarnished their images with rape cases against female members.

Another one will soon do so if women lobbyists maintain pressure and remain resolute about putting enough sting into a new rape law.

The pro-Mugabe sect leaders are Lawrence Katsiru, Godfrey Nzira and Obadiah Msindo. Of these, Katsiru and Nzira are currently in prison. The Harare Herald (via AllAfrica) gives a bit of background on Katsiru:

IN the late 1990s, a goatee-bearded and bespectacled prophet took the small farming town of Marondera by storm with his booming voice and precise prophecies.

At the height of his prophecies, others claimed he would tell, with precision, the whereabouts of stolen property, including vehicles.

Troubled people came in droves from as far afield as Egypt, Zambia, South Africa, Mozambique and Malawi as his influence, fame and reputation grew.

…Born into a Johane Masowe Apostolic Church family in Katsiru Village on the banks of Dande River, near Ruyamuro Centre in Guruve, Lawrence was seen by his followers as gifted with prophecy as a young man in the late 1980s at the sacred Rushanga Shrine where his father was the church’s second in command.

…In May 2001, Katsiru was elected Zanu-PF deputy political commissar for Mashonaland East, one of the most influential positions one can hold in the ruling party.

Last month Katsiru was convicted of the rape of a thirteen-year-old church member.

Like Katsiru, Nzira also had his roots in the Johane Masowe WeChishanu Apostolic Church (an African church formed in the 1930s), but was better known for heading the African Apostolic Faith sect. A 2002 News From Africa report explains that

ZANU-PF’s marriage with the African Apostolic Faith sect dates back to the run up to the 2000 parliamentary elections when its chief campaign strategist then, the late Border [Gezi] converted to the sect. The sect has its roots in the country and derives its membership mainly from among the poor. It practises polygamy. Women in the sect always dress in white and the men maintain a long beard accompanied by a clean-shaven head.

Nzira went down for twenty years in 2003 for raping seven women; his conviction caused a riot, as was also reported in the Herald (via WorldWide Religious News). Nzira’s political perspective was noted by scholar Terence Ranger in 2002:

At a prayer day in Harare in February Mugabe addressed an audience which included ‘hundreds of the Madzibaba Nzira’s Apostolic sect members, holding and lifting placards inscribed with ZANU/PF political messages…Baba Nzira announced a prophecy that Mugabe was “divinely appointed King of Zimbabwe and no man should dare challenge his office.”

Obadiah Msindo, meanwhile, is currently facing a charge of raping his maid on five occasions. The Zimbabwe Standard reports:

Reverend” Musindo heads the pro-Zanu PF Destiny of Africa, which operates from the Harare International Conference Centre, adjacent to the five-Star Sheraton Hotel.

…The perceived police reluctance to effect an order by the AG’s Office to charge Musindo was according to sources, based on the perception that he has very close links to senior government officials.

…The Standard is reliably informed that Zanu PF bigwigs had ordered that Musindo be given sacred cow treatment because he is “the only man of God” who supports the ruling party.

Musindo made a very early appearance on this blog, when I noted his claim that Mugabe was a “black, political, economic Moses” who intended “to raise millionaires and billionaires”, while George Bush was the “earthly representative of the Anti-Christ and the devil on earth”.

Back in 2004 the Herald made the more general observation that

There have been several cases of prominent prophets indulging in incestuous relationships with their relatives and raping minors, presumably in a bid to enhance their spiritual and healing powers.

However, even with the prophet-rapists out of the way, Mugabe still has some other religious supporters he can turn to. For instance, there’s Nolbert Kunonga, the Anglican bishop of Harare, who (Ranger reports), gushed to Mugabe that he had “been more merciful than God Himself!” Kunonga – widely known as “His Disgrace” – was rewarded with a farm, and the help of a militia to evict the rightful residents. There’s also Stephen Mangwanya, a Pentecostal leader who has publicly blessed Mugabe.

(Hat tip: Cult News Network)