New Contours of Church and State Relations: The Faithfully Obedient Indigenous Churches in 21st Century Zimbabwe

Robert Matikiti, Isaac Pandasvika


This article explores the role of indigenous churches in the struggle for freedom and democracy in Zimbabwe. For many years, the government of Zimbabwe has been trying desperately to assert its authority over the church. Upon realising that it could not win the battle to control churches of Western origins, the government turned to the white garment worshippers, popularly known as Mapostori. It is no surprise that the ruling party, Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), looks to ecclesiastical institutions – particularly the indigenous Churches that used to sing the praises of Mugabe, and now of Mnangagwa – to boost its support base. The church can either legitimate the current state of affairs, or call for change of the status quo. Reconstruction and transformation are fundamental pillars of the beliefs of world-affirming Christians. Human transformation is part and parcel of the work of Jesus Christ. Through the interpretive phenomenological analysis the foundational nature and thrust of the church’s evolution of religious social thought, and its understanding of reality is explored. Christians in Zimbabwe have been increasingly working to promote the creation of democratic structures and the rule of law. Democracy and freedom are the foundations of humane existence. Without democracy and freedom, Zimbabwe cannot develop, and Zimbabweans can enjoy neither happiness nor tranquillity. The points of compatibility and incompatibility between the church and the state also depend largely on the theology of particular churches. Indigenous churches are diverse, among which are the Johane Marange Apostolic Church, Vadzidzi, Madzibaba, Johane Masowe eChishanu, Masowe enguwoTsvuku, Guta raJehova and Zion Christian Church. In local parlance, they are either termed Masowe or Mapostori, and the two terms can also be used interchangeably. This article explores the use of ecclesiastical bodies by secular authorities in 21st century Zimbabwe.

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