Two police officers from Kezi, a village in Matobo district of Matabeleland South, interrupted a church gathering at Mabonyane where pastors and the Christian community were commemorating the World Peace Day. The police ordered the congregation to desist from discussing politics.

Christian Alliance organised the meeting aimed at discussing means by which pastors and chiefs would foster peace in their sphere of influence, ahead of the referendum and watershed elections slated for 2013.

The two officers clad in civilian clothing acted as surveillance. According to the police clearance, they were not supposed to be present. The police also gave orders that there should not be political talk in the meeting, but the pastors present resorted to using parables. 

Commenting on the uncommon scenario, Useni Sibanda, Director of Christian Alliance, condemned police behaviour, saying it infringes on the right of Christians to worship. “It is illegal for them to put conditions to our meetings. We condemn it because it is infringing on our right to freedom of worship,” Sibanda said.

“For the police to put conditions on our meeting is out of order. We will make sure we take up this issue .It is setting a bad tone as policemen monitor church services, which is wrong,” he added.

Sibanda further condemned the police, saying the country would not experience free and fair referendum if people are not allowed to speak freely. “We would like to allow people to speak freely. But, how can we hold peaceful referendum and elections when police storm church services like this.”

“We are just spreading the message sent by the three principals in the GPA of upholding a peaceful environment,” Sibanda explained what was discussed at the gathering at Mabonyane.

Church leaders in Kezi however resolved that Christians should not be used as pawns for political leaders and called for peace to prevail in the forthcoming general elections and violence. Sibanda said the meeting was also meant to encourage Christians to vote in the forthcoming elections because they were hesitant.

“Churches have been hesitant to vote. We want to encourage everyone to register as a voter, so that we do not just pray, but take a step of deciding our own destiny through exercising our right to vote,” Sibanda said.

Reverend Sibanda said that initiative was a follow-up to President Robert Mugabe’s message that every Zimbabwean must shun violence.

Churches like the Nazarene Fellowship of Zimbabwe, the Brethren in Christ Church, Assemblies of God, the Seventh-Day Adventist, Praise and Worship Centre and the Vapostori among others were in attendance.

Prior to the event, several church representatives held meetings with Chief Ndiweni, whose reign covers the whole of Matobo district.

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