As this year draws to an end, politics is no doubt going to leverage influence on believers in Zimbabwe.

We are told to think that the next elections will take place in 2013. With this in mind, I would like to look at what appears to be two most prominent dynamics in the recent life of Zimbabwe’s African Indigenous Churches: educating the faithful about humanity’s progress and propping up their leadership through talks of total indigenization.

When back in October Vice President Joice Mujuru was speaking at the burial of Zionist Bishop Pedzisai Adreas Shoko at Museva Village in Chivi, Masvingo province she said indigenous churches were performing a great service to Zimbabwe through promoting and maintaining peace in communities.

But it was around that same time that children from various Apostolic sects challenged some practices that exposed them to abuse in their churches. This took place while some AIC leaders were on the record as lamenting the danger of the de facto ruling party Zanu-PF heavyweights courting Zimbabwe’s African Indigenous Churches.

The Apostolic Christian Council of Zimbabwe executive president, Archbishop Johanes Ndanga, is a big supporter of Zanu-PF and thus all things indigenous.  “We have to educate people that it is God who made them Africans and Zimbabweans in particular. All the resources and wealth that is in Zimbabwe is for Zimbabweans and they should benefit from them. In other words we are talking about empowerment of the indigenous person.”

In an interview with The Herald earlier this year, the head of the indigenous church organisation stated, “It was a colonial initiative to deliberately despise indigenous churches and we were called all sorts of derogatory names such as “sects” and “self-styled”. So the main objective of ACCZ is to re-dress that colonial mindset that was entrenched in our members.”

But back in 2011, Archbishop Johanes Ndanga aknowledged the lack of consensus within Zimbabwe’s indigenous churches, “There have been clashes between some members of the Apostolic and Zionist churches and the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare over the issue of immunisation. It has been alleged that some members have been refusing to immunise their children on religious grounds.”

Nonetheless he seems to carry on with the narrow definition of Zimbabwean-ness. Archbishop Ndanga recently juxtaposed his organization to the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe, the Catholic Bishops Conference and the Zimbabwe Council of Churches, “The difference that we have with the first three bodies is that they represent churches in Zimbabwe and ACCZ represent churches of Zimbabwe.” 

One only wishes that AIC leaders like Archbishop Ndanga could take a more embracing stance — for the benefit of educating more faithful, if not anything else.

The Standard‘s report about Tandiwe Mwakutuya, a 55-year-old Harare woman, who spent four weeks bedridden in her house, described Mwakutuya’s relatives accusing Johanne Marange Apostolic Church leadership discouraging the woman from seeking medical attention.

One of Mwakutuya’s relatives told the media after the woman started recovering as a result of a delayed treatment in hospital, “She can talk now and the first thing she said was she was grateful to her church for the healing. She now wants to leave hospital so [she] could go to their shrine and be cleansed of the sin of being in a hospital.”

In this view, it was a good move for the government of Zimbabwe to strike a partnership with UNICEF  and start training some members of the Vapostori in order to recruit them as health practitioners.

It is encouraging that not just health issues were the focus of training initiatives aimed at the Apostolics this year. Well ahead of time, the Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe brought together AIC bishops to deliberate on causes and ways of reducing road accidents ahead of the festive season.

The Herald report pointed to 11,043 people injured from January to October this year due to road accidents. 

TSCZ managing director Obio Chinyere stated his belief that “the Apostolic sect has a huge following in the country and educating their bishops will result in the followers attaining knowledge as well.”

Secretary General of the Union for the Development of Apostolic Churches in Zimbabwe Reverend Edison Tsvakai said they had lost a lot of church members due to road accidents. “Church members have perished mainly due to lack of knowledge and these workshops will go a long way in helping our members.”

Educated indigenous church members might become a challenge for political parties next year, but they will surely contribute to the development of Zimbabwean society as a whole.