In its attempt to win back the rural supporters, Zanu PF has started roping in members of the Apostolic sects to participate in the indigenisation and economic empowerment programme.

Several Zanu PF politburo and central committee members, led by Vice-President Joice Mujuru, were in Manicaland recently where she urged members of Johanne Masowe Church in Gandanzara area to embrace the programme.

But critics said this was an attempt by the former ruling party to lure church members ahead of elections.

“I would like to urge you to be actively involved in the indigenisation and economic empowerment programme,” said Mujuru. “You should empower yourself through these programmes. The indigenisation and economic empowerment programme is centred in controlling our resources. So be part of us and we will not back track.”

She added that the church should participate and benefit from the community share ownership trusts and employee share ownership trusts.

The trusts have however, been mired in controversy, with accusations that the programme was benefitting mostly Zanu PF senior leadership and traditional leaders.

Mujuru said there should be a bank managed and owned by a church union to ensure transparency and that people do not lose out. Several banks have collapsed in recent years with ordinary people losing their hard-earned cash.

“We will not expect a church leader to cheat innocent citizens. This will be one way to ensure that we have a transparent and Godly practice within our economy,” she said.

The Johanne Masowe Church was promised that it would benefit from the Sovereign Wealth Fund, which would provide the church members with capital to purchase stakes in foreign-owned companies.

The fund is now supposedly pegged at US$4 billion after several foreign-owned companies were forced to cede 51% shareholding as stipulated by the controversial Indigenous and Empowerment Act.

Also in attendance were Zanu PF Political Commissar and Information minister Webster Shamu, Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa, Zanu PF Secretary for Administration Didymus Mutasa and former Chimanimani MP Munacho Mutezo, among others.

‘Empowerment programme based on patronage’

churches have become a lucrative hunting ground for politicians seeking votes. Both President Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai have become regular visitors to different churches in what analysts see as a way of seeking votes ahead of elections.

Their visits to churches are expected to increase as dates for elections draw near.

Efforts to get a comment from Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo were fruitless last week.

But Zanu PF’s political foe, the MDC-T, has said the economic empowerment programme was based on patronage.

“The ill-advised Zanu PF empowerment programme is not demand driven and is a narrow model of transferring wealth to a few black elite and not genuine wealth creation and distribution to the poor people of Zimbabwe,” said the party in a statement.

“The MDC believes that a genuine broad-based upliftment programme, which balances the need to attract investment, grow the economy and create jobs for all, must be developed to protect the country from further Zanu PF plunder.”