Saturday, July 12, 2008

Church reverend suspended over Rostam Aziz incident

A DAR ES SALAAM Church leader has reportedly been suspended for inviting the Igunga Member of Parliament on a CCM ticket, Rostam Aziz, to speak at a prayer mass last Sunday without following proper procedure.
Reverend Joseph Masege of the Kinondoni Lutheran Church is understood to have been so disciplined by the church for allowing the politician to address worshippers without being given the relevant go-ahead by his superiors.
Rostam used the occasion to deliver what has been widely interpreted as a highly-controversial speech, including remarks that may be interpreted as part and parcel of the ongoing political fallout and subsequent wrangling over the findings of the parliamentary committee that investigated the Richmond corruption scandal.
The MP was one of the most prominent casualties of the committee’s final report, along with ex-prime minister Edward Lowassa and ex-cabinet ministers Nazir Karamagi and Dr Ibrahim Msabaha. Rev. Masege and one of the church’s choir groups, Amkeni, were reportedly suspended from the church after they were found to have been somehow behind the politician’s presence at the Sunday prayer mass, apparently as a VIP guest. When contacted on his mobile phone yesterday, Rev. Masege himself declined to comment on his reported suspension, abruptly hanging up the phone instead.
Rostam reportedly donated a total of 7.6m/- to the Amkeni choir group, and was given the honour of addressing the church gathering. In his remarks that received prominent coverage in a number of local newspapers, the MP said the country was passing through difficult times, claiming further that some people were being unfairly accused of corruption and thereby apparently demonised by political foes.
A statement issued earlier yesterday by the Kinondoni Lutheran Church distanced itself from Rostam’s remarks, saying his presence at the church did not follow proper procedure. ’’It has been established that Rostam was invited by a group that has no authority to issue such invitations,’’ said the church statement signed by its secretary general, Ambassador Richard Mariki.
The statement said the church had been dismayed by, and strongly rejected, the MP’s remarks to the congregation to the effect that he was a ’’clean politician.’’ The church also refused to be associated with any statements made by Rostam inside the church, saying the ’House of God’ should never be used to cleanse people from corruption allegations. ’’The church does not allow its congregations to be used as political platforms to cleanse corruption suspects.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania has been at the forefront in the fight against corruption,’’ said the strongly-worded statement. The church apologised to its worshippers for the incident, saying it would make sure such things never recur in future.


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