By Richard Chidza
Harare, November 21, 2013 – As Zimbabwe’s economic malaise continues unabated, struggling fast moving consumer goods manufacturers and the country’s christian community appear to have teamed up to literally “defile” the House of the Lord.
Radio VOP understands that the Anglican Church has devised a plan to use the pulpit to “urge” congregants to buy goods from identified companies from which the church will get at least 10 percent as commission.
Anglican Church of the Province of Central Africa (CPCA)’s Harare Diocese secretary Reverend Clifford Dzawo confirmed the arrangement in an interview with Radio VOP.
“We have companies that have approached us offering their products at lower prices than what we find in shops. It is the same with insurance companies who want to insure our properties and vehicles.
“They offer to sponsor social responsibility programmes for the benefit of the church and the poor communities. We are not forcing our members. They still have the option of buying direct at the supermarket if they so wish,” Dzawo said.
But Chipinge based United Church of Christ (UCCZ) secretary general Canfired Pambuka criticized the arrangement.
“That is a divisive approach to people’s issues. The church must stand with all people as a unifier without being selective. The church must stick to its core business of reaching out to lost souls and consolidating those that have been served rather than sticking its nose in earthly things to do with amassing of wealth.
“On the other hand the business community has set structures and institutions to dispose of its products without abusing the name of God and the holy temples,” said Pambuka.
Dzawo said what the Anglican Church is proposing cannot be equated to the biblical scenario in which Jesus had to violently drive out commercial traders such as money changers from the church.
“Those Jews were ripping off people, they were unscrupulous, charging people exorbitant prices for goods they knew only they (Jews) could provide and that the general people could not do without,” he said.
Unconfirmed reports have claimed flamboyant United Family International Church founder Emmanuel Makandiwa is showing advertisements of companies and products owned by some of his members on big screens to his massive following at the City Sports Centre in Harare.
The Zimbabwe Assemblies of God church as well as the Apostolic Faith Mission sects that attract as much following as Makandiwa also preach the prosperity gospel urging church members who own and run business ventures to declare what they do and trade between themselves as a way of “retaining” the riches God gave with the faith.
Makandiwa is still selling his contentious airtime recharge cards only usable to his mobile numbers only. His spokesperson could not be reached for comment.
Zimbabwe’s cash-strapped government, which has failed to come up with a budget as is the norm in November of every year this week announced it was working on modalities to start levying tax on churches.
Pastor Bernard Madera of Terbanacle of Grace Ministries likened the relationship between the church and the manufacturers to incest.
“The church and these companies are not founded on the same ideology. People should ask themselves whether Jesus would approve of this,” said Madera.
Social commentator, Tjenesani Ntungakwa who serves as a Projects advisor with the Revolutionary Research Institute of Zimbabwe said he was appalled by the behaviour of manufacturers rather than the church.
“It shows lack of confidence on the part of the manufacturers. Why should they go that far. These are companies with structures to market their products so why would they be so desperate,” said Ntungakwa.
He said it won’t be surprising if churches are turned into supermarkets soon.
“At this rate we will not be surprised if you will in the near future find shelving sprouting up in the foyers of some Cathedrals,” the researcher said.
With millions of people turning to Christianity in the last few years, government is said to be looking at ways to make churches prime targets for taxation and tap into the millions submitted to churches as tithes.
In the run-up to Zimbabwe’s make-or-break July 31 harmonised poll, politicians scoured the church for votes in what commentators said was a shameful act of bringing the church into disrepute.
So desperate was President Robert Mugabe that he attended a church service for the Johane Marange Apostolic sect wearing the white flowing garb oblivious of the several child abuse cases leveled against the sect leaders.