In the middle of Zimbabwe’s first economic turmoil in 1998, the country’s labour movement pressured then President Robert Mugabe to attend to the collapse of the economy.
The Union led several mass actions including staying away from work and demonstrations which were violently foiled by the Mugabe regime.
In the thick of things, instead of Mugabe seeking for dialogue with the powerful workers Union led by Morgan Tsvangirai and Gibson Sibanda, the arrogant Zimbabwean leader challenged the labour union to go out and form its own political party if it wanted to address issues affecting the country.
In less than a year, the labour based Movement for Democratic Change was formed led by the tough Morgan Tsvangirai.
From there on Mugabe never rested. His free rule of the country got its biggest challenge since swallowing Joshua Nkomo’s PF ZAPU into his ZANU PF in 1987.
He went on to lose subsequent elections to the new opposition party he ordered for only to keep using his dirty rigging tactics and military backing to remain in power.
Fast forward to yesterday, under siege President Emmerson Mnangagwa has gone the Mugabe digging into the Catholic Church the world’s most followed church,telling the local priests who rebuked him for poor leadership, to form their own party and challenge him to the elections.
This comes after Catholic priests, under the auspices of the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference, last week penned a damning condemnation of the Zanu PF led administration for failing to run the country.
Addressing a party politburo Wednesday, Mnangagwa echoed his predecessor’s words telling his party elites that men of the cloth were free to join or form their own political parties if they were itching for a showdown with him.
“It is most unfortunate when men of the cloth begin to use the pulpit to advance a nefarious agenda for detractors of our country.
“Those who want to enter the political realm are welcome to do so. They must come out and form political parties.
“As Zanu PF, we are ready for the 2023 elections,” said Mnangagwa.
Poor Mnangagwa, however, fails to realise that he does not pears possess as much power as did Mugabe back then.
Mnangagwa denied claims Zanu PF was averse to church counsel, adding, the party worked closely with the church during the liberation struggle and in the post-independence era.
“Zanu PF has a close relationship with the church dating back to the days of the liberation struggle,” he said.
“In the post-independence period, we continued to work well. Going forward, we remain committed to working well with church to advance the national development agenda, as a united people.”
Religious organisations local and international have come out in full support of the bishops against Mnangagwa. Civil Society, opposition political parties and students movements have also joined in to support the bishops with some urging the men of the cloth to go on and take Mnangagwa head on.
Time is always the best judge and everyone awaits to see how the church will react to Mnangagwa’s challenge.