Father Oskar Wermter, social communications secretary for the Zimbabwe Catholics Bishops' Conference (ZCBC), has protested against remarks by politicians in the ruling party, Zanu PF, who compared their leaders to Jesus Christ.

Wermter, a white clergyman who has often criticized the government, was commenting on remarks by Josiah Hungwe, provincial governor of Masvingo province, about 180 miles southwest of Harare, who last week compared a minister in the national government minister to the "Son of Man"—a term often used in the New Testament.

Hungwe made his remarks after Border Gezi, the minister of employment creation, promised to give millions of dollars to youths in the province of Masvingo for self-help projects. Delighted by the promise, Hungwe publicly thanked Gezi, saying: "Wherever the Son of Man goes, the hungry are fed. The blind are made to see. We know you can create jobs for our youths because we heard you did the same in other provinces."

Father Wermter told ENI the statement was blasphemous. "All serious Christians are dismayed at the arrogance of such leaders and their disrespect for the religious feelings of Zimbabwean Christians," he said.

The ZCBC was well aware, he added, that this was not the first statement of its kind comparing politicians to Jesus Christ. Before parliamentary elections last June, Hungwe angered Christians when he compared President Robert Mugabe to Jesus Christ during a Zanu PF campaign rally in Masvingo.

Two years ago, Tony Gara, then a Zanu PF member of parliament, triggered an angry reaction from local Christians when he also compared President Mugabe to Christ during a session of parliament.

Father Wermter told ENI: "We expect the leadership of the party to which the politicians belong to stop such scandalous statements once and for all. It just shows that the people responsible are very ignorant, and that they are very vulgar in their thinking.

"They have no sense of respect for spiritual matters, which is regrettable."

Asked if the ZCBC would make a formal complaint to Zanu PF, Father Wermter said that if he received instructions from the bishops, he would do so.

Related Elsewhere

Christianity Today's earlier coverage of Zimbabwe includes:
War Veterans Occupy Church on Zimbabwean White-Owned Farm | "We just want to pray and leave politics alone," says evicted pastor. (Mar 30. 2001)

Evangelicals Attempt to Defuse Crises | While decrying land redistribution program, president of Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe stepping down after financial dispute. (Mar. 22, 2001)

Catholic Clergy Concerned About Workers on Zimbabwe's White Farms | "This is no longer a free country," says Conference of Religious Superiors. (Mar. 22, 2001)

Clergyman Forced to Leave Zimbabwe After Criticizing Mugabe Government | Authorities revoke work permit of Presbyterian missionary who accused the government being involved in killings. (Mar. 19, 2001)

Zimbabwe Church Officials Tell Mugabe to Respect Judiciary and Rule of Law | Catholics, Baptists, and others criticize presidential pressure on Supreme Court. (Mar. 19, 2001)

Churches Call for Inquiry Into Zimbabwe's Pre-Election Violence | "In the meantime, accept the election results" says Zimbabwe Council of Churches (July 14, 2000)

Zimbabwe President's Party Refuses to Join Church-Sponsored Talks to End Violence | At least 10 dead in country's escalating political violence (May 2, 2000)

Evangelicals Abstain from Zimbabwe's Interfaith Body | Christian group opposes blending of Christianity and traditional African religion. (Apr. 18, 2000)

Church Council Urges Swift Resolution of Zimbabwe's Row over White Farms | Land redistribution must be done "in a systematic, just and transparent manner" (Mar. 23, 2000)

Zimbabwe's Black Anglican Priests Claim Exclusion at White Ceremonies | Four priests resign, alleging widespread racism (Nov. 24, 1999)

Gun-Toting Missionaries Given Light Sentences (Nov. 15, 1999)

Missionaries or Mercenaries? (May 24, 1999)