Unconstitutional remarks from a Christian pastor

Shingai Rukwata Ndoro Chiseling the Debris
EVERY April 18 is marked as a national day, the Independence Day for Zimbabwe and to commemorate the birth of a new nation in 1980 and freedom from British colonialism.

This day came to be observed after a protracted armed liberation struggle and the sacrifice of many patriots who lost lives, blood and limbs. The frailties and failures of our human existence should challenge all of us to see nationhood as work in progress.

The English word “independence” is a composite word derived from “in” and “dependence.” “In” means “within, into.”

“Dependence” is a noun which means “the state of relying on or being controlled by someone or something else.” It is derived from a verb “depend” which means “to be controlled or determined.”

Therefore, “independence” means “to rely and be controlled and determined from within” our own human sovereign agency and self-determinative integrity.

What’s within that we should depend on? This is the power of causation for creative and innovative ideas, aspirational visioning for a better life and effortful possibilities.

This is only possible when each of us internally discover our own human grand powers of reasoning, discernment and causation to externally actualise them as we mutually relate with other sovereign countries for interdependence in geopolitics, investment, trade, knowledge sharing and technology transfer.

Constitutional values

Against this background, Zimbabwe @37 Independence Day observance event was at the National Sports Stadium and a prayer was given by a Christian, Pastor Petunia Chiriseri of HIS Presence Ministries International (HPMI).

Before the prayer, she made a statement as follows, “This is the reason why we the church in Zimbabwe, greatly rejoice and appreciate you your Excellency for consistently acknowledging the power of the gospel of Lord Jesus Christ by officially opening national events like this unashamedly nemunamato.

We don’t take this for granted nokuti there are some nations, yes, there are some nations there are so modern that vari pamberi sitereki, they now worship satan openly under the so called multi-faith approach and freedom of worship, but my Bible tells me that blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord. I believe that as a nation we are blessed this morning…”

Towards the end of his speech at the same event, President Robert Mugabe made remarks that can be considered as a rebuke of the pastor. He said, “…What we have done in the past to bring about unity is not enough.

We need to continue as true patriots, true sons and daughters of the soil to continue that unity to ensure that we all belong to Zimbabwe regardless of our affinities, whether these are religious, tribal, political or any other. We are all Zimbabweans and we should respect each other, all of us as Zimbabweans. And respect even the areas where we have these (different) affinities…”

What the President said is a high level pronouncement of constitutional values because the nature of the State of Zimbabwe is that its a secular republic [section 1 of the Constitution of 2013] and a constitutional democracy [section 3(a)].

Zimbabwe is a collective body of human beings based on: 1) the recognition of the inherent human dignity and worth of all (sections 3f, 48 and 51); 2) inalienable human rights and freedoms [section 3c and 49]; and 3) the recognition of the equality of all human beings (sections 3f and 56).

Section 60 of the Constitution guarantees the freedom of thought and conscience and the profession of religious views or lack of them. Every person has the right to choose freely his or her position toward religion, has the right to profess a desired religious view or not to, to engage in religious ceremonies individually or collectively with other citizens.

The right of freedom of thought and conscience is subject only to such restrictions which are necessary to ensure: 1) public law and order; 2) public health; and 3) the defense of the reciprocal rights and freedoms of other citizens. This means that all citizens are at the same level in respect of human rights and responsibilities.

Religious organisations are private and voluntary associations recognised under the freedom of assembly and association in terms of section 58. The freedom to associate necessarily includes the freedom to disassociate. Likewise the freedom to assemble includes the freedom not to be part of any group.

As a secular republic and a constitutional democracy, there is recognition of the religious and cultural multiplicity and diversity of the citizens.

Even if Mrs Chiriseri was invited by the Government to perform the role as a pastor, she is a public officer in the capacity of being a Commissioner of a constitutional body, the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC).

As a public officer, she did not conduct herself so as to avoid any conflict between her personal interests and public duties, and to abstain from any conduct that demeans her office. – s196(2).

She expressed a hateful speech and an utter disdain for freedom of religion and a multi-faith approach to public education. This is a clear indication that habours gross prejudice and intolerance against those who are non-Christians and the non-religious.

These citizens may not have confidence that she will not violate s235(1)(b) and (c), under which she is expected to conduct herself in accordance with the Constitution; and will have to exercise public office functions without favour or prejudice.

On behalf of the “Ethical Non-Religious Community in Zimbabwe.

  • For feedback, email [email protected] or Twitter @shingaiRndoro. A gallery of previous articles is found at www.sundaymail.co.zw/author/shingairukwata

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