Harare,– To some, Bishop Ancelimo Magaya (52), who is visually impaired, could be a charity case deserving nothing except pity.
To President Robert Mugabe’s government, he could be a rogue cleric who has abandoned the pulpit to dabble in national politics.
But to many who have seen his divine activism grow in him, Bishop Magaya is a passionate Man of the cloth determined to see what he preaches being reflected in real life.
The Divine Destiny Network cleric lost his sight at the age of three and has grown to become a strong agitator for social justice.
A doting father of three, Bishop Magaya may not be gifted with visual sight but has a clear vision on how the country can be freed from decades of Zanu PF misrule.
“I have always had this sense of justice. I always felt that I needed to ensure that there was justice, there was equity even at very, very lower level,” he said in an interview with RadioVOP.
Since he was part of a group of pastors who took part in a demonstration against police bias towards Zanu PF in 2003, Bishop Magaya has also been part of the different pro-democracy protests, including the frequent demonstrations for the release of missing pro-democracy activist Itai Dzamara.
His latest was late last month when he and some pastors were arrested during a demonstration to demand the current government to address the country’s mounting problems.
While his ordeals in the hands of an abusive state are plenty, he singles out the 2011 experience as one of his worst.
He was among dozens of congregants who were commemorating the ill-fated 2007 Zimbabwe Christian Alliance prayer meeting at a Nazareth church in Harare’s Glen View suburb when anti-riot police stormed the church building and threw teargas right inside, triggering a stampede which saw many get injured.
While many could manage to break the church windows while jumping to safety, it was not the case with him as he found himself frantically groping about, to find his way out of the thick choking smoke.
And yet he still finds enough reason to continue challenging the current government’s excesses.
“If you are visually impaired, it does not spare you from the difficulties and the challenges of this ailing economy; in any case, a visually impaired person suffers more,” he said.
“So at personal level, I have the right to fight for my rights. When things affect everybody, it means a visually impaired person suffers more.
“I believe strongly that as a man of God, my visual impairment is too small as compared to the suffering of the masses of Zimbabwe; it is very important that Zimbabwe is bigger and people in Zimbabwe need some opinion leader who can actually speak for them. So I cannot stay out of these things. I might not have eyes but I do sense that things are wrong in this country.”
The proud holder of two Bachelor of Arts Degrees in English and Theology has had many occasions in which he has coalesced with MDC-T politicians but denies being an active member of any political party and also denies any natural hatred for President Mugabe.
“I don’t have natural hatred for Robert Mugabe. Never ever. In fact, I love Robert Mugabe as a person created in the image of God; he is a father figure in my life but he is a father figure who has gone very, very astray. Very, very self centred, very unforgiving and has brought this country to its knees,” he says.
Speaking during the heroes day commemorations, President Mugabe took a swipe at local priests who have been outspoken against his government saying they were among those who spell the word “God” in the reverse.
But Bishop Magaya would not let him escape with murder.
“That is a very unfortunate statement coming from a man who is supposed to be fatherly,” he said.
“I think the truth of the matter is that spelling God the other way is actually done by him because he has presided over murder in Matabeleland.
“We have had circles of violence, maiming, abductions; he was and still is the chair of atrocities. It is actually him who would spell God the other way.”
Even in his visually impaired state, Bishop Magaya says there are some police details who have tried to treat him in a humane manner while some have been outright overzealous.
But with all the ordeals in the hands of the police, how far is he prepared to go in his mission to save his flock from the political hyenas?
“I can go as far as God gives me the grace to do so and for as long as what I am fighting for is a matter of principle,” he says.
“When we have a constitution that allows people to demonstrate and certain people think that they are above the law and they actually illegally stop them…as long as those violations are done to the people of Zimbabwe and my conscience tells me that I have to speak out, I will, even if it means they have to arrest me.” – Radio VOP