2019 Report on International Religious Freedom: Zimbabwe

The constitution prohibits religious discrimination and provides for freedom of religion, including the freedom to practice, propagate, and give expression to one’s religion, in public or in private and alone or with others.

Religious and civil society groups reported the government occasionally monitored public events, prayer rallies, church congregations, and religiously affiliated nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) perceived to be critical of the government. NGOs reported that some religious officials who engaged in political discourse perceived as negative toward the ZANU-PF government became targets of the security services.

In June Talent Farai (T.F.) Chiwenga, founder of Apostle T.F. Chiwenga Ministries, stated state security agents attempted to kill him for insulting Vice President and then minister of defense Constantino Chiwenga. In November the government dropped subversion charges against Pastor Evan Mawarire of His Generation Church for urging citizens via social media to protest the country’s deteriorating economy in January. 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, but attendees reported a heavy presence of state security personnel at the services.

Multiple church organizations released public 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. In October Deputy Information Minister Energy Mutodi made remarks on social media about Zimbabwe Council of Churches (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.

As in previous years, some groups criticized Christian groups with indigenous beliefs, particularly the Apostolic community, for encouraging child marriage and prohibiting immunizations.

The U.S. embassy raised freedom of speech and human rights with government officials. The Ambassador repeatedly urged the president and cabinet ministers to allow the political opposition party Movement for Democratic Change to conduct peaceful demonstrations, including holding a national week of prayer in July.

Embassy representatives met with religious leaders and faith-based organizations to discuss the role of faith communities in supporting political reconciliation and national healing. The Ambassador met with leaders from the country’s main Apostolic coalitions to encourage them to promote women’s empowerment and access to health and education among their followers.

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