Choosing Mugabe

Mark Tooley is President of the Institute on Religion and Democracy (www.theird.org) and author of Methodism and Politics in the Twentieth Century. Follow him on Twitter: @markdtooley.


Zimbabwe’s first black prime minister recently died, amid little fanfare.  Abel Muzorewa was a United Methodist bishop who replaced the Rhodesian white minority regime, only to be undermined by the Carter Administration and the Religious Left, who ultimately forced new elections that enthroned Robert Mugabe as dictator for three decades.   Later, Mugabe would imprison Muzorewa, among his other crimes, about which most of the Religious Left was silent.

Throughout the 1970’s, Bishop Muzorewa opposed the white minority government while advocating a peaceful transition to democratic, majority rule.  At one point, he was exiled to Mozambique and then returned home to a welcome by 100,000 well wishers.  In the late 1970’s, Rhodesian Prime Minister Ian Smith negotiated with Muzorewa and other black moderates for an end to white control, while guaranteeing a minority of legislative and cabinet seats to whites.  Muzorewa, a lifelong Methodist who was educated in the U.S., became prime minister in 1979 in the first election of his nation to offer full franchise to blacks. Of course, Mugabe’s Patriotic Front guerrillas continued their armed struggle in their quest for power.

Of Mugabe and others who persisted in warfare, Muzorewa remarked:   “They can say what they like, do what they like. They have brought only suffering. I have brought black rule.”  The Carter Administration, urged on by the Religious Left, refused U.S. recognition for Muzorewa, continued sanctions against him, and demanded new elections predestined to discredit him and empower Mugabe.  Zimbabweans consequently have endured a spiral of poverty and tyranny.  Muzorewa reputedly aspired to do “what Mandela did in South Africa – achieve a political resolution of his country’s problems without bloodshed.”  But thanks partly to the international Religious Left, he was defeated by Mugabe, who preferred bloodshed.

The Swiss-based World Council of Churches (WCC) had funded black oppositionists in Zimbabwe during the 1970’s, including Muzorewa.  WCC support for Muzorewa ended when he negotiated with the white regime, while WCC support for Mugabe’s Marxist guerrillas accelerated.   In 1978, the WCC gifted $85,000 to Mugabe’s Patriotic Front, despite its alleged murder of missionaries, among other terror.  Editorialized Britain’s Daily Telegraph:  “In a way one could respect them more [the WCC] if they went to Africa themselves to murder missionaries and children rather than hired a pack of savages to do it for them.”

After Mugabe was elected to power in 1980, the WCC felt vindicated, with one WCC official vowing the WCC would “not be bullied by those who attack us for giving our attention to controversial political issues.”  Predictably, Mugabe soon abandoned most pretenses of democracy and resorted to virtual one-party rule, to which the WCC never really objected, even when Bishop Muzorewa was imprisoned in 1983 for alleged conspiracy with Israel and South Africa.  Muzorewa had visited and urged diplomatic relations with Israel. In the aftermath of other repressions and atrocities, the WCC finally explained that “not all situations are necessarily dealt with by making public statements,” a form of restraint the WCC did not exercise against its usual Western targets, especially the U.S. and Israel.

Working in sync with the WCC was the National Council of Churches (NCC), which in 1977 hailed Mugabe’s guerrillas as “co-workers with God.”  After the 1979 vote that elected Muzorewa as Zimbabwe-Rhodesia’s first black leader, the NCC condemned the result because of “conditions of martial law in about 90 percent of the country.”  Of course, martial law existed thanks to Mugabe’s election boycott and continued warfare.

The United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries, like the WCC and NCC, remarkably severed support for Muzorewa, even though a bishop of their church, and instead supported Mugabe’s Marxist guerrillas after the 1978 peace agreement leading to Muzorewa’s election.  Famously, Bishop Muzorwe exclaimed then:  “We just can’t understand why the American church sides with our enemies.  Doesn’t it seem strange to you that our brothers and sisters…would support people who want to close our churches?”

Little of this appeared in the official United Methodist coverage of Muzorewa’s death.  Muzorewa “was one of the 20th century’s great champions for the liberation of people in Africa, especially his homeland of Zimbabwe,” insisted a General Board of Global Ministries executive, forgetting his agency’s exertions against they bishop 30 years ago.  “His struggle to loose the chains of colonialism distinguishes him in a special way,” the executive told  the United Methodist News Service.  “He served both the church and his emerging nation with a sense of purpose and determination at a time of transition and uncertainty.”

The church’s news service briefly noted that Muzorewa had been a “leading figure” in Zimbabwe’s “struggle for majority rule.”  During a “time of violence and tension,” the bishop was “involved in peace talks with Ian Smith, Rhodesia’s prime minister.”  In 1979, “as the country transitioned to majority rule,” Muzorewa became prime minister for less than one year, but “civil war raged,” and new elections, resulting from “peace negotiations,” elevated Mugabe to power.  The church news service cryptically admitted:  “In 1983, Muzorewa was detained for 10 months without trial by the government, but later said he had forgiven those responsible.”

No doubt Muzorewa had a noble Christian character that allowed for forgiveness of his enemies in the Mugabe regime.  What must he have thought of the Religious Left, including officials of his own church, which helped to force him from power in favor of the anti-democratic Mugabe, and then remained largely silent when Mugabe imprisoned him?  Presumably, he forgave them too.  But on Muzorewa’s behalf, we should not forget the Religious Left’s betrayal of him and its role in the suffering of Zimbabweans today under Mugabe’s despotism.

  • Mik

    Has the WCC ever been on the correct side of any issue?

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/temarch temarch

    Excelent article. It is a shame many people are unaware of what went on there and especially the role Jimmy Carter played.

    Note: Should not the last paragraph begin with "No doubt Muzorewa" as opposed to "No doubt Mugabe"?

  • Kevin

    Re: the WCC; No. And they most likely never will be. Beware when they start in on the Jews here in the US…

    I agree wholeheartedly, temarch; great article. 'Tis a pity so few see Carter for what he truly is. I myself never knew of his role is handing Zimbabwe over to Mugabe.
    I do agree too about that last para.

  • poetcomic1

    The article fails to mention that most of the victims of Mugabe's guerrillas were fellow blacks tortured, murdered and terrorized into 'loyalty'.

  • mikeb

    The UMC is apostate. Every dollar you give to your local church props up the infrastructure that continues to do this sorta thing. It is a political organization, and has abandoned Jesus Christ as saviour of souls.

    Folks need to demand that their local church severe its ties with the District and Conference infrastructure, or otherwise give their tithes elsewhere, to legitimate CHRISTIAN ministries.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/GaryRumain Gary Rumain

    Another thing to thank Dhimmi Carter for. Exactly how many stuff ups did that fool make before being humiliated by that Iranian pedophile Khomeini?

  • DOn

    Mugabe did such great things with the Zimbab's economy!! Totalitarianism at its best. Let's copy this and centralize power since it works so well!

  • Draza

    Is there anything that Carter has touched that hasn't turned into a pile of Drech???!!! Obama admires Mugabe as an exaple to follow. He has taken the most succesful country in Africa (under white rule) and turned it into your typical African cesspool. Congo and Sierra Leone have a better economy. A great example of what is in store for South Africa.

  • Ron Grant

    I was a member of the Rhodesian security forces (regular) in the late 1970s and prior to that had heated discussions with WCC congregation in my home town of Halifax ,NS. Canada , over their southern African and Rhodesian policies,given the tactics and strategy of terrorism.While I fought to defend white lives and their way of life,I recognized the need for majority rule,like it or not,for good or bad,ruin or salvation.As it turned out,it was not good ,a country was ruined,and I didn't like it.But no more of my china's were killed or maimed or ruined and most whites and many blacks live elsewhere in safety,peace and prosperity of a kind.Africa and the Frontline states would not have accepted the rule of Muzorewa and his white coalition.As it was Mugabe made the needed and acceptable compromises to end the war.
    For whatever reason,the majority of Africans voted for Robert Mugabe who gave them majority rule through the barrel of the gun.To the victors go the spoils (of peace).Ironic,eh?
    Blame current day Zimbabwe on the Africans who voted for this Marxist.Blame Mugabe and his elite ruling class for inept and corrupt leadership.Blame the war vets for their selfishness and shortsightedness.Blame the white farmers for not seeing the forest for the trees.The war was about land as much as it was about majority rule.Don't blame the WCC for the failures of Zimbabwe.
    As my mothers father was borne a Christian in Bethlehem,I have an understandable interest in Israel and the Palestinians.As I have argued the Rhodesian case with the Religious Left,so too do I argue the Palestinian cause with the Religious Right.I find both more the same (intolerant,etc) then different.Interestingly enough,Rhodesians admired Israel and no doubt seen their situation as somewhat comparable.You even heard it said things would be different if we did (to the blacks)what the Jews did (to the Palestinians) i.e.drove them out of the country to become the majority.In other words,my words,ethnic cleansing or "creating facts on the ground".But Rhodesians,my other kith and kin,were better then this.A sad example of (a) good people,Jews,doing shameful and inexcusable deeds (on a regional grand scale).To my mind,this diminishes the lessons of the Holocaust,the most horrific example of mans inhumanity to man.I sometimes despair that if Jews are capable of this then there isn't much hope.Muchiboy

    After the war ended,many of Rhodesia's elite forces were recruited by South African forces or the IDF.To those members,Stay Well,my Chinas.

    .

  • BS1977

    Why isn't this criminal thug dictator Mugabe in the World Court for his atrocities and corruption? What a pile of garbage. I feel so sorry for Africa….the place is beyond tragedy…it is a catastrophe. Sierra Leon. Somalia. Sudan. Algeria. Zimbabwe. Rwanda. Uganda…the list goes on and on…worse than the worst horror movies. Have you seen Blood Diamond? Hard to believe what goes on over there.

    • Sheba

      I so agree he should be bloody court being questioned for what he did to his people and country, and also the whole of Africa. He is a bloody liar and a dictator. Africa needs democracy and a better goverment who is willing to make drastic changes to help its economy and people.

  • jACKGN

    I was a life long UM. No more. Between the church's love for murdering marxists and support for the radical gay agenda, there is no longer any room for the good news of the orthodox Gospel. Conservative Methodists need to take the lead from orthodox Anglicans and Lutherans and separate from the apostate organization that calls itself a "church".

  • Phineas

    White Rule not so bad in retrospect,eeeehhhhh? The country has been the very definition of de-evoloution ever since the typical tin horn Black dictator is given the keys to a country that had been a 1st World country ,only under Whites. Mass murder and slaughter, mass famine, the entire system breaking down, nothing no longer running on time, almost nothing getting fixed anymore.

    Not that the Dick Gregorys,Chuck Ds,Ice Cubes,Spike Lees,Medusa Waters,Leonard Pitts',Danny Glovers,Denzel Washingtons,and nearly endless other Black racists will EVER admit it, or believe it. Their attitude? "Yeah he's a tyrant, but he's OUR tyrant, and he's been kicking Whitey's ass over there for 30 years! HA HA HA HA HA WHITE MAN!!!!" Because THAT'S all that matters to them. Proving once again, that not only can Blacks be racist, they are MORE racist than Whitey ever was.