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‘Govt intimidates, harasses religious leaders’

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A recent report by the United States government has accused Zimbabwe’s inclusive government of continuing to politically intimidate and harass religious leaders critical of its policies.

“The government did not demonstrate a trend towards either improvement or deterioration in respect for and protection of the right to religious freedom,” says a report compiled by the US government’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labour.

The report released last week says the “government continued to favour the breakaway Anglican Church of the Province of Zimbabwe (CPZ) and harassed the leadership and members of the Church of the Province of Central Africa (CPCA), the official regional body representing the worldwide Anglican Communion”.

The CPZ is headed by a self-confessed Zanu PF admirer Nolbert Kunonga, who was excommunicated from CPCA.

Zimbabwe’s constitution and other laws and policies protect religious freedom. The constitution protects the right of individuals to choose and change their religion as well as privately or publicly to manifest and propagate their religion through worship, teaching, practice, and observance.

The 2002 Public Order and Security Act (POSA) restricted freedom of assembly, expression, and association. While it exempts religious activities and events, influential persons in the government view as political any public gathering, including religious gatherings, critical of Zanu PF.

The Global Political Agreement signed by principals of three major political formations, Zanu PF and the two MDC formations in September 2009 calls for political parties to respect freedoms of expression and association as well as giving permission to “non-governmental organisations involved in giving humanitarian and food assistance shall do so without discrimination on the grounds of race, ethnicity, gender, political affiliation and religion and in doing so, shall not promote or advance the interests of any political party or cause”.

However, according to US report, “government officials have steadily monitored individuals who speak out against human rights abuses committed by the government and those who organise public rallies centring on social and political issues.”

It noted that the US embassy officials have expressed concern over this violation of rights and has over the years provided assistance to religious actors and faith- based organisations to promote religious freedom in Zimbabwe.

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