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Zimbabwe

Section II. Status of Government Respect for Religious Freedom

Government Practices

In June Talent Farai Chiwenga, founder of Apostle T.F. Chiwenga Ministries, stated state security agents attempted to kill him for insulting Vice President and Minister of Defense General (retired) Constantino Chiwenga. On June 12, according to T.F. Chiwenga, his wife and a bodyguard died in a car accident that occurred after security agents ran them off the road. He suffered serious injuries in the crash but survived. In the days after the country’s November 2017 military-assisted transition, T.F. Chiwenga publicly stated that then general Constantino Chiwenga “was not fit to lead.” In a September 2018 sermon, T.F. Chiwenga told congregants he saw “two coffins that will bring this country to a standstill,” which sources said prompted many to believe he was referring to former president Mugabe and Vice President Constantino Chiwenga. The vice president publicly rebuked T.F. Chiwenga, accusing him of extortion and practicing satanism.

In January the government charged Pastor Evan Mawarire of His Generation Church with subversion for urging his followers via social media to protest the country’s deteriorating economy. A court dismissed the charges in November. In 2018 Mawarire filed a lawsuit against the Zimbabwe Republic Police for unlawful arrest and detention during his participation in 2017 antigovernment protests; the lawsuit remained pending at year’s end.

Civil society organizations reported the government continued to use security laws to monitor public events and prayer rallies of religious groups, but there were no reports of specific incidents or disruptions. Christian aid organizations and local NGOs focused on memorializing victims of the 1980s Gukurahundi mass killings of mainly Ndebele civilians said that security officials monitored their activities frequently throughout the year but generally did not interfere with their activities.

In February NGO Ibhetshu LikaZulu, an advocacy group in Matabeleland South that organizes memorial and prayer services to commemorate victims, built a memorial for Gukurahundi victims after the government twice blocked similar efforts in 2018. The organization’s Secretary General Mbolu Fuzwayo told local media that vandals destroyed the memorial a few days after its completion.

Religious activities and events remained free from POSA and MOPO restrictions, but observers stated the government continued to categorize as political some public gatherings, including religious gatherings such as prayer vigils and memorial services, perceived to be critical of the ruling party. In September the government allowed the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association to hold a series of prayer vigils for its president, Dr. Peter Magombeyi, who had gone missing. According to media, attendees reported a heavy presence of state security personnel at the services. Magombeyi was found outside Harare on September 19 and stated plainclothes government security officers had kidnapped and tortured him.

Multiple church organizations, including the Churches Convergence on Peace, ZCC, and Catholic Bishops’ Conference, released letters appealing for tolerance, national unity, peace, reconciliation, healing, and stability while calling on the government to uphold the constitution and protect citizens’ political rights. Deputy Information Minister Energy Mutodi made remarks on social media in October about ZCC General Secretary Kenneth Mtata, calling him a fool, a false prophet, and a demon possessed in response to Mtata’s call for the government to engage with the opposition in a national dialogue.

The legislature considered but had not yet passed a draft amendment to the Private Voluntary Organizations Act that would increase penalties for all NGOs, including faith-based NGOs, for failure to comply with registration requirements.

Most official state and school gatherings and functions included nondenominational Christian prayers, as did political party gatherings. In courts and when government officials entered office, individuals often swore on the Bible.

The government continued to enforce a 2018 ban on all radio and state-run television programs advertising prophets and traditional healing. Authorities said the ban was a response to increases in fraud. Government officials stated the constitution protected freedom of worship, but the regulatory authority retained the right to protect believers from abuse. Media reports stated some church leaders welcomed the ban because false prophets sometimes used their status to rape or defraud congregants. In February a court convicted Walter Magaya, the founder of Prophetic Healing Deliverance Ministries, of fraud for falsely claiming he discovered a cure for HIV.

Churches reported working with Zimbabwe Prison and Correctional Services to help improve living conditions in prison facilities.

International Religious Freedom Reports
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U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future