Zimbabwean Presidential Contender Relies on God to Defeat Mugabe

A teacher and businessman turned presidential candidate in Zimbabwe said his Christian faith led him to run for office to repair a country suffering from intense economic woes, including the world's highest inflation rate.

Langton Towungana, a resident of the northwest tourist town of Victoria Falls, is running against incumbent President Robert Mugabe, former finance minister Simba Makoni, and head of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Morgan Tsvangirai.

But Towungana is not intimidated by his politically savvy opponents, instead pointing to God as his strength and motivation to run for the highest office in Zimbabwe.

"Everyone is on their knees. There is no food in the shops. Everybody is crying. In the rural areas there is no sugar. There is no bread and there is no mealie-meal," said Towungana, according to London-based SW Radio Africa – a radio station run by exiled Zimbabweans that broadcasts materials critical of Mugabe's government into the African nation.

Towungana said men and politics have failed to solve the country's problem and now it is time to give God a try.

"As a man of God I thought I must run in this race for president," he said.

Zimbabwe's society is in ruins due to an economic meltdown with inflation over 100,000 percent. An estimated 3.5 million Zimbabweans have fled to neighboring South Africa and other countries to escape the hunger and to earn money to send back to family members still living in their homeland.

Though Zimbabwe by title is a democracy, the country, under Mugabe, has crushed protests against the its economic crisis – leading some to see it as a police state or under dictatorship.

Christian leaders in Zimbabwe have been arrested for criticizing the country's leadership, and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and his party members were violently beaten, arrested, and detained by the government while on their way to a prayer meeting, reported The Associated Press last year.

Last December, the second highest ranking cleric in the Church of England, Archbishop of York Dr. John Sentamu, made a striking protest when he cut up his clerical collar and vowed not to wear one until Mugabe was ousted from power.

Hoping to defeat the unpopular but powerful Mugabe, Towungana commented, "To be president doesn't require a very big man. What is needed is a person who has got the people at heart. A person who has compassion," according to SW Radio Africa.

Towungana has no political experience and was the last man to join the race – successfully applying to be a candidate just last month. Although he admits there is not enough time to campaign and get his message out to citizens, he hopes to remedy the problem by holding many radio interviews and by believing God is on his side.

"It's the only thing that can give us salvation," said the candidate whose campaign posters feature a Christian cross, according to The Earth Times. "God, not man, can give us direction."

But some have accused Towungana of being a prop for Mugabe's party, the ZANU-PF, created to split the opposition vote. His message of forming a government of national unity is similar to the ruling ZANU-PF's platform.

Moreover, the state media, or the mouthpiece of ZANU-PF, has given Towungana interviews with both the official Herald Daily and the state ZBC television. Neither of the other main presidential rivals have been given similar interviews.

"Mugabe is surprised by me," Towungana responded to his critics. "He does not know who I am. I am not a stooge. I am not ZANU-PF and I am not associated with any party."

Towungana, who repeatedly calls himself a man of God, said although he entered the race late, "the most high God is the driver of this thing."

Zimbabweans will head to the polls on Mar. 29 to vote for the leader they think can lift them out of the country's economic quagmire.