Civil society groups have been slammed for their silence over the state sponsored violence rocking the Anglican Church. Thugs aligned to ex-communicated Bishop Nolbert Kunonga, with the help of a partisan police force, have for months been blocking genuine parishioners from using their church premises. This is despite the High Court ordering a sharing of the churches until such time as the dispute over property is resolved. Human rights academic Pedzisai Ruhanya criticized civil society groups saying they have not spoken out in defence of the religious rights of parishioners who are loyal to Bishop Sebastian Bakare, the man now recognized as Harare’s Bishop by the Anglican Church worldwide.
Ruhanya said; ‘The state has been interfering and protecting someone who was lawfully expelled from the church. Any society that does not respect religious freedoms is not a democratic society.’ He said civil society should have been conducting advocacy work and pressuring the coalition government to respect the legitimate group of Anglicans led by Bakare. Instead he said the groups have a tendency to react to issues, instead of formulating agenda’s and policies themselves. He gave the example of the SABC film highlighting the terrible conditions in the prisons saying; ‘The civil society groups already knew about these conditions from their visits to political prisoners, but they waited for an SABC film to jump into action.’
Ruhanya remains puzzled by the lack of action to help the Anglicans and said; ‘Civil society has not put this issue at the forefront and yet the state is violating a fundamental human right, the right to freedom of religion and consequently the right to freedom of expression.’
Meanwhile Bishop Bakare this week told Newsreel that Sunday’s church services were peaceful with no disruptions. Previous Sundays have seen riot police using tear gas against his followers and arresting priests, church wardens and youths. All this has been done to protect services led by ousted Bishop Kunonga, a long time Mugabe supporter who grabbed a farm from one of his parishioners.
Civil groups slammed for silence over violence against Anglicans
So it's a little ironic that this broadside on SW Radio Africa Zimbabwe news should come just at the point when a truce has been arranged: