Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has been catching flak after telling a religious audience on the weekend that he and President Robert Mugabe were chosen by God to lead the country and that people should pray for them.
Mr. Tsvangirai told a prayer meeting Saturday in Chitungwiza, a Harare satellite town, that Zimbabweans should pray for their leaders even if they do not like them or subscribe to the same political party.
Zimbabwean media widely quoted him as saying: “I am blessed to be chosen among the multitude to lead the country ... Whether you like me or not, you should remember that I was chosen, even President Mugabe was selected by God.”
Critics were quick to equate Mr. Tsvangirai’s statements to those often issued by Mugabe’s proxies that he was anointed by God.
Others said Tsvangirai was behaving like some of Africa’s most notorious dictators - the late Idi Amin of Uganda and Malawi’s Hastings Kamuzu Banda were mentioned - who considered themselves anointed and reminded their people to pray for them.
But Thabitha Khumalo, a spokesman for Mr. Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change formation, defended her boss saying the prime minister was quoting scriptures from the Bible that encourage people to pray for their leaders.
"Zimbabwe is Christian nation," Khumalo said. "The Bible is also very clear when it comes to leaders. It is very specific that leaders in any nation are chosen by God, so the prime minister is just reciting the biblical writings."
But political analyst Nkululeko Sibanda disagreed, telling VOA that Mr. Tsvangirai should not mix religion and politics. "God doesn't delve into matters of the state or politics. This will sure not sit well with the majority of people," he said.
ZANU-PF-leaning analyst Psychology Maziwisa said he agreed with Tsvangirai.