The conquest and occupation of Zimbabwe only came much later, in September 1890, and remained incomplete until late 1893 when the Ndebele Kingdom eventually fell.
The settler colonial state was thus only formed more than three decades after Church presence in our Land.
The age difference between these two key institutions becomes even bigger when one reads Church presence in our Land through activities of itinerant missionaries. Portuguese missionaries reached Mwenemutapa Empire way back in the 16th Century.
They even converted some of the King’s sons, including one Miguel, who became the first ever known Zimbabwean doctor and scholar. He died in a monastery and was buried in Goa, India.
By late 1855, Livingstone had already reached Mosi-oa-Tunya, which we now call the Victoria Falls. In March 1856, he announced his arrival at the Falls to LMS’s Robert Moffat, triumphantly claiming he had “discovered” Mosi-oa-Tunya.
In that letter to Moffat, he wrote, “I wish to name the Falls after our Queen, the ‘Smoke Sounding Falls of Victoria,’ as a proof of my loyalty.” To this day, the Falls are named after Queen Victoria.
Through Livingstone, the Church abroad had doffed to the British Monarch. The missionary and explorer conveniently forgot Africans had long lived on both sides of the Zambezi River, and had long named the Falls before he did. To make matters worse, it was the Kololos of Zambia who had introduced David Livingstone to those Falls.
Not many know the close partnership between David Livingstone and the British State. On 6th February 1858, David Livingstone wrote to his favourite lecturer, Professor Adam Sedgwick of Cambridge University, to say: “…That you may have a clear idea of my objectives I may state that they have something more than meets the eye. They are not merely exploratory, for I go with the intention of benefitting both the African and my own countryman.
“I take a practical mining geologist from the School of Mines to tell us of the mineral resources of the country, then an economic botanist to give a full report on the vegetable productions – fibrous, gummy and medicinal substances together with the dye stuffs – everything which may be useful in commerce.
“An artist to give the scenery, a naval officer to tell of the capacity of the river communications and a moral agent to lay the foundation for knowing that aim fully.
“All this machinery has for its ostensible object the development of African trade and the promotion of civilisation but what I tell to none but such as you in whom I have confidence is thus I hope it may result in an English colony in the healthy highlands of Central Africa – I have told it only to the Duke of Argyll…. With this short statement you may perceive our ulterior objects. I want you to have some idea of them….”
Rarely is this landmark communication, itself a manifesto of European colonial expansionism, ever attached to the person of David Livingstone. In history, David Livingstone is immaculately celebrated only as a missionary and explorer; very few know him as “a saint of empire”.
He worked for colony and commerce, which he cloaked as civilisation and Christianity. We have his statue in front of Munhumutapa Building, the seat of Government. It was placed there by settlers as tribute to this fusion of Church and State histories and identities.
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