‘Meddling’ religious leaders need to stop preaching politics from the pulpit, or risk being banned by the government.
“When religious leaders meet and order their followers not to vote for the proposed constitution or how they should vote in a general election, this is a clear violation of the country’s laws,” says Home Affairs Minister Mathias Chikawe.
Chikawe says he will shut down any religious institution which continues to call their flocks to vote one way or the other after April 20.
Religious leaders have a right to be in politics, but should not use their position of spiritual influence for political gains, says Chikawe.
Some churches have been urging their congregation to vote ‘no’ to the proposed constitution, while Cardinal Polycarp Pengo, who is Archbishop of Dar es Salaam, criticized clergy who preached politics.
People should be free to vote according to their conscience, says Pengo.
Other religious leaders see Chikawe’s statement as an attempt to silence dissent.
“Those are threats meant to gag the target institutions for their stand. Religious leaders have a right not to support the government,” says Organization of Islamic Institutions’ Rajab Katimba.
Chairman of the Constitution forum for Zanzibar, Abdul Sheriff says the government is only adding fuel to the fire.
“It is dangerous to say you can ban religious institutions. The government is only instilling fear,” says Sheriff.
Everyone is part of the national politics, says Helen Kijo-Bisimba of the Legal and Human Rights Centre.
“What I see is raw fear from the government.”