Mercenary Missionaries: Religious Right’s Move In Zimbabwe Resurrects Sorry History

TV preacher Pat Robertson and other Religious Right leaders have long been interested in the continent of Africa. They seem to believe that they can find a country there to serve as a laboratory for their misguided social agenda – as well as plunder any wealth the area may have.

It reeks of the worst form of old-style colonialism.

Most recently, Robertson minions have invaded Zimbabwe, a landlocked nation in southern Africa long afflicted with government corruption and poverty.

Sarah Posner, associate editor of the Web site "Religion Dispatches," reports that Pastor Vicky Mpofu serves as Robertson’s point person in Zimbabwe. Aided by Jay Sekulow, head of the Robertson-founded legal group the American Center for Law and Justice, Mpofu has launched an African arm called the African Centre for Law and Justice. Sekulow’s son, Jordan, is also involved, serving as director of international operations for the American Center for Law and Justice.

What do Robertson and the Sekulows want in Zimbabwe?

The agenda may sound familiar. As Posner puts it, “[T]he African Centre for Law and Justice is injecting itself into the political process of drafting a new constitution that will supposedly pave the way for new elections. The African Centre for Law and Justice is aiming to do in Zimbabwe precisely what the religious right seeks to accomplish in the United States: declare the country a ‘Christian nation’ guided by biblical principles, outlaw abortion, and ostracize and criminalize LGBT people.”

Robertson and his gang have been down this road before. In the mid-1990s. Robertson became enamored of the central African nation of Zambia and its president, Frederick Chiluba. Chiluba was a guest on the “700 Club,” where he explained to an enthralled Roberson that he had officially declared his country a “Christian nation.”

A beaming Robertson turned to his television audience and gushed, “Wouldn’t you love to have someone like that as president of the United States of America?”

Soon, the loon brigade from the Christian Reconstructionist movement jump aboard. This collection of unrepentant theocrats opined that once Zambia was totally “reconstructed” – that is, converted into a fundamentalist Christian theocracy adhering to the Old Testament’s harsh legal code – it would serve as a base for retaking America.

Alas for them, the schemed failed. Chiluba left office in 2002 and, along with his wife, was charged with wide-scale corruption. Although Chiluba was acquitted by a Zambian court, he was found guilty of stealing $46 million in a civil case in England. Some of the money, prosecutors argued, went to pay for fancy clothes and a lavish lifestyle during a time when many Zambians lived on a dollar a day.

Around the same time he was lauding Chiluba, Robertson was cozying up to Mobutu Sese Seko, the dictator of Zaire (now the Congo). Robertson was so eager to get a stake in the country’s lucrative diamond trade that he unsuccessfully lobbied the U.S. government to lift its ban on the brutal and corrupt Mobutu.

More scandalously, Robertson used airplanes from his Operation Blessing charity to ferry diamond-mining equipment in and out of the country – all while claiming he was doing humanitarian work there.

That venture collapsed when Mobutu was overthrown in 1997. Robertson’s overtures to the Congo’s new leaders went nowhere, and in 2001 he began wooing Liberian strongman Charles Taylor in a gold-mining deal – despite Taylor’s known brutality and his role in the violent civil war that had racked the nation.

And let’s not forget what other Religious Right activists have done in Uganda. Legislators there, worked into a state of frenzy by anti-gay far-right speakers from U.S. Religious Right groups, have actually proposed legislation mandating the death penalty for gay men and lesbians.

The residents of many African nations have struggled for years to cast off the legacy left by decades of imperialism and oppression. The last thing they need is to be left to the tender mercies of a band of Religious Right extremists and greedy TV preachers.