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The link between religion and politics – NewsDay

The relationship between religion and politics

By Miriam Tose Majome
THE Church is not an arm of government, but it can be an invisible arm because of the big influence it has on politics.  Local churches are often accused of turning a blind eye to government excesses, but they have to for the sake of their own survival. They cannot afford to step on government officials’ toes unnecessarily except every now and then to quell the criticism for their silence.  Churches benefit from government protection and silence over their excesses in exchange for their silence regarding State excesses in turn. Churches benefit from freedom of worship and the absolute independence they are guaranteed by government. They enjoy benefits and preferential treatment such as tax immunity even when the immunity is undeserved.  Many churches abuse their tax immune status to conduct profit-making businesses and other clandestine activities, but the government pretends not to see anything for its own survival. Some churches have benefited from huge tracts of State land, so it is in their best interests to support the political leadership of the day.  The relationship between church and State, religion and politics is mutually beneficial because they feed off each other. Politicians know well that the church is a ready-made political constituency to prey on for votes and support when they need it. Political and religious leaders know how to handle each other for the benefit of their respective constituencies. The church cannot be excluded from taking part or commenting on politics because it has a major stake in politics although it often refrains for its own good. It cannot be denied that the complete separation of religion, politics is often just legal fiction.

Historical background
In Europe and the Western world, the Roman Catholic Church had the biggest influence on State politics and laws since it was declared the official religion of the Roman Empire by Emperor Theodosius I in 400 AD. Up to the 16th century and beyond, Popes and priests advised and presided over State and monarchy affairs in very powerful capacities. The church benefitted from massive grants of land, prestige and wealth which have persisted to the present day. Rumblings of dissent with the purportedly God-ordained monarchies grew louder with the growing Protestant movement and Republicanism.

The French Revolution between 1789-99 was instrumental in charting the course for the separation of State and church. Since then the church’s influence in government has persisted albeit much less prominently. In the Moslem world, countries like Iran and Pakistan declared Islam as their official religion and follow Sharia law in government administration. Sharia law simply means Islamic law and the rules which regulate the public and private life of Moslems according to their religious texts in the Quran and the Hadith.

Separating the church from the State and striving for secularism is an unending quest.  The majority of European countries have struck down many laws that promote religion in public administration and spaces.

The removal of religious symbols such as the Quran, crucifixes and Bibles from public places is an ongoing exercise. In 2004, the French government banned the use of religious symbols from public places and schools. The ban was and is still widely believed to have been aimed at hijabs, the headscarves commonly worn by Moslem women. To balance things out, the ban was extended to the wearing or displaying of crucifixes and Jewish skullcap. The Gideon Bible Society, an international organisation that distributes free Bibles in hotel rooms and college campuses worldwide, has had to curtail its activities in many regions of the world. Some hotel chains have long since stopped the distribution of Gideon Bibles for fear of legal action threatened by atheists and other religious groups who argue that the ubiquitous presence of the Bibles in their hotel rooms violated their religious rights.

Zimbabwe has no official State religion  although there is a bias towards Christianity for sombre rites. More people claim to subscribe to Christianity than to any of the other religions. Laws are derived from the values, norms and customs of society and religion is particularly influential.  Personal religious convictions shape national discourse. People are happier and support the laws when the laws reflect their own subjective views. Laws are perceived more favourably when they reflect the religions people subscribe to.  This leads to the inevitable conflation between legal, moral and religious arguments. It is a struggle for some religious people to accept that the rights of all citizens are protected by the law including people considered undesirables like homosexuals and convicted criminals.

Many religious people struggle with secular laws like those pertaining to capital punishment, abortion and contraception because they contradict their religious convictions. The fear is that if no moral control is exercised by government, Parliament will pass immoral laws. This contrasts sharply to secularism which seeks to exclude religion from governance and public administration because religion is believed to cause more harm than good in society. There is no evidence that shows countries with official State religions and high numbers of citizens who profess high degrees of religiosity have less social problems such as crime and violence.

Statistics show that the poorest and most crime-ridden and violent societies are the most religious countries. The United States is the most religious country among all the most developed nations, yet has the highest crime rate and social disharmony.  Crime rates are very low in highly secular countries like Sweden, Netherlands and Finland which put less emphasis on the role of religion and have clearer demarcations between religion, politics and the law.

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Politics

Zanu PF woos Mujuru back – The Zimbabwe Mail

Joice Mujuru


Zanu-PF Mahuwe district branch has recommended the readmission of former Mbire legislator David Butau into the party.

Butau was expelled from the ruling party in 2015 after he was linked to the sacked former Vice President Joyce Mujuru led faction accused of trying to topple then Zanu-PF leader Robert Mugabe.

In a letter dated 5 May 2022, addressed to the Mushumbi District Coordinating Committee chairperson, Mahuwe district vice chairperson, Daniel Mumbamuchena said they had agreed that Butau should be readmitted into the ruling party so he can mobilize voters for President Emmerson Mnangagwa ahead of 2023 elections.

The letter reads: “We as the ward, Mahuwe political district agreed to the letter with the following conditions:


“Butau involved everyone to implement development in Mbire district, he offered personal projects to uplift the livelihoods of people in the entire district.

“He was involved in developing public places like schools, clinics and roads, he donated learning materials like books and computers in most of the schools in the district.

“He assisted orphans and the most vulnerable people in the entire district, he was strongly involved to resolve situation during disasters which affected people in Mbire district”.

Added the letter: “We therefore recommend David Butau to be admitted in Zanu-PF, to continue with his good works and also assist the President of Zimbabwe H.E Mnangagwa in mobilising the five million voters to rally behind Zanu-PF in the impending 2023 general elections.”

Source – NewZimbabwe


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Politics

Minister threatens the opposition – The Zimbabwe Mail

Davies Marapira


MASVINGO North Zanu-PF legislator Davies Marapira has declared that beneficiaries of the land reform programme should not support opposition parties and those supporting the opposition will be evicted from resettlement areas.

Addressing Zanu-PF youths during the launch of a US$5 000 football tournament for youths in his constituency at Wondedzo Primary School on Sunday, Marapira said supporting opposition politics in resettlement areas is a taboo punishable by eviction.

His sentiments came as the country draws closer to the 2023 general elections, with several analysts and leaders of opposition parties predicting a violent campaign as Zanu-PF hardliners indicating that they pull out all the stops to retain power.

Masvingo province witnessed terrible political violence during 2002 and 2008 elections which saw tens of people losing their lives and several others being permanently maimed.

Marapira, who is also the minister of State in President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s office, told the youths that land reform is the brain child of the ruling party and all the beneficiaries of the programme must support Zanu-PF so those found supporting opposition politics in resettlement areas will be sent back to their places of origin. He said opposition politics is for rural areas.

“This area is a resettlement area which was created through policies by the ruling party and everyone staying here should support the ruling party. On this issue we are serious so anyone found supporting the opposition in this area should know of his fate, which is eviction back to his or her rural home and if we do that nothing will happen to us because Zanu-PF is the owner of this land. I think l am clear on this issue and everyone heard what l said,” said Marapira.


Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC) Masvingo provincial spokesperson Derick Charamba told The NewsHawks that his party is receiving numerous complaints that opposition members in rural and resettlement areas are being threatened by Zanu-PF officials for exercising their constitutional right to association. He said many of their supporters are being sidelined from government programmes like agricultural input and food aid schemes, which is a gross violation of human rights.

“We are receiving several cases of political threats on our members on daily basis as the country is moving closer to the 2023 general elections. It is not a secret that the ruling party is using unethical practices to intimidate our members. Many of our members are being sidelined during government programmes, which should benefit all citizens, because of their political affiliation and this is a violation of the country’s constitution. We call upon Zanu-PF to stop this behaviour so that we have a fair and acceptable election in 2023,” said Charamba.

MDC-T shadow minister of State for Masvingo Festus Dumbu confirmed that cases of political threats on opposition supporters are increasing in the province on a daily basis. He said his party is adopting strategies that will protect its supporters from the ruling party’s violent behaviour.

“It is true that opposition supporters are being threatened in Masvingo as the country is drawing closer to the 2023 elections. As a party we have adopted a strategy which will protect our people from this violence. Intimidation is what the ruling party knows and this is implemented through traditional leaders and members of the security sector,” said Dumbu.

Source – thenewshawks


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Politics

NGOs and litmus test of democracy through natural disasters: SA in good standing – IOL

OPINION: The importance of a democracy can be juxtaposed to the broader African continent, where NGOs are viewed as ‘regime change’ advocates.

BY: Ratidzo Makombe

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Development economist, Amartya Sen, noted in his famous text, “Development as Freedom”, that democracy is an important pillar for the economic development of any country. He alludes to how democracy is important when a country faces a natural disaster, such as the floods that ravaged Durban and other parts of KwaZulu-Natal.

For Sen, democratic countries with strong independent institutions can withstand unforeseen cataclysmic events, such as the floods in Durban. When substantiating this point, Sen draws examples from Botswana and Zimbabwe, where their experiences of famines that occurred in the early 1980s were not properly managed by the governments at that time, especially in the Zimbabwean case where the country was governed by democratic principles.

Within the African context, South Africa is often viewed as the beacon of democracy in Africa. Since the end of apartheid in 1994, South Africa has held elections that have been rarely criticised by the international community and the country’s opposition parties.

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A practical assessment of democracy and its relationship with state institutions shows that South Africa seems to be in good standing. Although recently, the debate surrounding state capture has tested South African institutions’ resolve to complete the investigation process and release the state capture report, which is an indication that the institutions in the country are functioning reasonably well.

The Durban floods and the damage to the livelihoods of citizens in KZN can be viewed as a mammoth task for the government. It is safe to say that any government would be severely tested by a natural disaster, even in the most advanced societies. Because government interventions would involve monetary allocations, the fear of corruption would arise.

Citizens have often been confronted with corruption issues, particularly with the ongoing investigation of state capture. In October of 2020, the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) announced an investigation of R10.5 billion in potentially corrupt Covid-19 spending across the country.

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It was not surprising that the public space was dominated by news about the potential looting of the funds being raised to support the victims of the flood. President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that measures had been put to ensure that public officials would not divert the funds. Despite this, there is a high risk that corruption could hamper the rebuilding process in Durban.

Citizens are also wary of the government’s past involvement in aid for the vulnerable. This is evident with cases of corruption across South Africa involving councillors who would choose who receives the food parcels. Some have been accused of only giving parcels to their relatives and members of their constituencies, thereby sowing serious divisions within communities.

Instead of donating funds to the government, the citizens opted to support the non-governmental organisations (NGOs) – Gift of the Givers – co-ordinating efforts to assist the victims. Indeed, of the fundamental tenets of a democracy is the vibrancy of civil society organisations such as the Gift of the Givers. One of the reasons such organisations thrive in South Africa can be attributed to the democratic environment created by the government.

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The importance of a democratic society can also be juxtaposed to the broader African continent, where NGOs are viewed as “regime change” advocates. It is essential to be cognisant of the importance of a democratic society in accommodating divergent non-state actors in the face of a natural disaster.

The political environment in South Africa is often viewed as being more receptive to NGOs, hence, the success of the NGOs such as the Gift of the Givers. Previously, the organisation was also at the forefront of assisting communities affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

It has been argued that the main role of NGOs is to complement the work that the government is conducting. This has seen many NGOs being at loggerheads with governments of other African countries. In 2017, a law passed in Addis Ababa stipulated that NGOs can only receive a maximum of 10% of their funding from abroad. The government, which is highly suspicious of foreign influence, said the law would ensure greater openness.

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In March, President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government in Zimbabwe threatened NGOs for interfering in the country’s governance.

These two cases are examples of the fractious relationship between African governments and NGOs. These examples put the Gift of the Givers case in perspective. It alludes to the tolerance of South Africa, which provides a platform for a harmonious relationship between the government and NGOs. In times of crisis, it is always vital to have a unified approach to addressing the existing challenges.

Democracy is at the heart of Sen’s work, and this is useful for not only South Africa but for Africa. NGOs are an integral part of the governing apparatus of every country, and the Gift of the Givers’ case is pertinent. As shown in the KZN flooding experience, the resilience of the society was brought to the forefront due to their inclusiveness, unity, and selflessness.

* Ratidzo Makombe is a doctoral candidate in Development Studies and a Researcher at the University of Johannesburg’s Institute for Pan-African Thought and Conversation (IPATC), South Africa.

* The views expressed here may not necessarily be that of IOL.

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