Takudzwa Mazwienduna is the informal leader of Zimbabwean Secular Alliance. This educational series will explore secularism in Zimbabwe from an organizational perspective. Here we talk about African state-wide secular alliances.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Often, humanist and feminist organizations remain allies. Are they allies in Zimbabwe? If so, how so?
Takudzwa Mazwienduna: The Feminist organizations in Zimbabwe are mostly under Christian influence, they are not willing to associate with Humanist organizations which are viewed the same as Satanic cults, even by the general public. Zimbabwe is a seriously Christian country whose society is not welcoming to anything that does not subscribe to Christianity. Even LGBTQ organizations are not eager to associate with Humanists. It will automatically cost them any support they had with the public.
Jacobsen: How old is religion in Zimbabwe? How long back does discrimination against women go back? How does religion discriminate against men who tend to be poor?
Mazwienduna: Religion has been around in Zimbabwe since the Bantu settled there around 8000 CE. The kingdom of Great Zimbabwe as it was known back then still has shrines and granite buildings left from the Era which have been declared a UNESCO heritage site. Anthropologists are still uncovering a lot about the Great Zimbabwe civilization, but from the little we know so far, it was a center for trade with Arabs and different travellers. Their religion had a lot to do with ancestral worship and some rural communities still follow similar traditions today. When the British South Africa Company colonized the country 1000 years later in 1890, the London Missionary Society carried out a mass genocide persecuting anyone who didn’t subscribe to Christianity. Most traditionalists went underground but Christianity overtook the mainstream and anything else was frowned upon. The Christian fundamentalism of the London Missionary Society days is still the same today and traditionalists are demonized and accused of witchcraft, especially women. Women had important roles in traditional society. They were religious leaders as spirit mediums through whom the ancestors spoke. The famous Mbuya Nehanda is a good example, she led the first resistance war against British settlers in 1893 until they caught her and hung her the same year. The rise of capitalism and Christianity has left women in a very disadvantaged position today. Religion in Zimbabwe actually profits off the poor because prosperity gospel pastors are rising, selling people false hope. The most famous of them all right now is Walter Magaya, a millionaire who has multitudes of rape allegations against him from young women in his congregation, but because he has the police and powerful politicians in his pocket, he walks free selling miracle cucumbers, fake HIV medicine etc… It’s plain ridiculous.
Jacobsen: If we are looking at poor men, if we’re looking at rural populations, if we’re looking at women in general, and those with disabilities, what are the positives of religion? What are the negatives religion?
Mazwienduna: The Anglican, Catholic, Methodist and Apostolic Faith Mission churches have done the most when it comes to poverty and helping the poor. My mother grew up in an abandoned child-headed family and it was Catholic nuns who took them to school. They have continued to run orphanages and pay fees for disadvantaged children up to this day. The majority of churches coming up nowadays however are there to profit off the poor. Some of them even promise miracle money if you give them “seed money.” even buying a front seat close to the “anointed man of God” on Sundays costs a fortune, yet people desperate for financial miracles are always eager to buy these seats for more than they can afford.
Jacobsen: I ask this within a Zimbabwean context. How can alliances within African states and between statewide organizations begin to manifest in a more robust way? I know of some initiatives in Africa and what is happening. I know of some statewide organizations in various African nations.
Mazwienduna: The African Civil Society needs to develop reliable networks that are based on the need for progress alone, and not politics. It is also important that we have a lot more discussion concerning progressive issues between activists from different fields.
Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Takudzwa.
Mazwienduna: Thank you Scott, it’s always a pleasure.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He authored/co-authored some e-books, free or low-cost. If you want to contact Scott: Scott.D.Jacobsen@Gmail.com.
Do not forget to look into our associates: Godless Mom, Nice Mangoes, Sandwalk, Brainstorm Podcast, Left at the Valley, Life, the Universe & Everything Else, The Reality Check, Bad Science Watch, British Columbia Humanist Association, Dying With Dignity Canada, Canadian Secular Alliance, and Centre for Inquiry Canada.
Other Resources: Recovering From Religion.