Zimbabwe: Satanism Fear Rocks Remand Prison

PRISON authorities at Harare Central Remand Prison are in a quandary on what to do with three foreigners, with refugees status, who claimed to practice Satanism.

They are demanding that they be allowed to practice their religion freely.

The three, one from Rwanda and two from the Democratic Republic of Congo, claim to be recruiting from within the walls of prison and now authorities fear what influence these people may have on the rest of the prison population.

"We have thought of it, but we cannot confine them on their own, as we will be accused of violating their human rights," Harare Central Prison boss, Billiot Chibaya said on Friday.

Now to prove that their religion is growing, the Satanists have written to prison authorities demanding all sorts of paraphernalia so they can grow their mission. Among the things that they have asked for are razor blades, a red coffin and red candles, but prison authorities insist that they will not grant them their wishes.

Initially, Zimbabwe thought of deporting the trio, who were arrested last September at Tongogara Refugee Camp in Chipinge, but it has since been realised that they were granted refugee status and cannot be taken to their respective countries.

The self-proclaimed Satanists are also accused of being in possession of a substance that looked like human blood, but they insisted that they have done nothing wrong and ought to be released.

"They are afraid to take us to court because they know we did nothing wrong," George Lungange, one of the devil worshippers said. "There is freedom of worship in Zimbabwe, we should be freed."

'Religious belief not a crime'

Kucaca Phulu, a human rights lawyer, said the self-confessed Satanists had been in remand prison for quite a long time and the case should be brought to the courts to be finalised.

"If there are certain illegal acts like murder, then they must be investigated," he said. "If not then this looks like a case of religious intolerance."

Phulu said Satanism was not a crime and urged authorities not to use the law to placate fear of the unknown.

Despite the dominance of Christianity, Zimbabwe has freedom of religion enshrined in the constitution. Even the new draft reinforces freedom of conscience, which allows anyone to worship in a manner they chose.

"Every person has the right to freedom of conscience, which includes freedom of thought, opinion, religion or belief and freedom to practice and propagate and give expression to their thought, opinion, religion or belief, whether in public or in private and whether alone or together with others," reads the draft.

"Any religious community may establish institutions where religious instruction may be given, even if the institution receives a subsidy or other financial assistance from the state."

Useni Sibanda, the head of the Christian Alliance, said the constitution allowed for freedom of worship, but since the country was predominantly Christian, Christian values and morality were likely to carry the day.

"If they infringe on other people's rights then that will be a major concern," he said.

"As Christians we believe in only one God and any other form of worship is alien."

Sibanda said this was a spiritual matter and might prove impossible for the courts to deal with it.

"What is needed is co-operation between (Christian) church leadership and the state so we can find a solution to this," he said.

In a largely conservative state like Zimbabwe, Satanism is hugely frowned upon and unacknowledged.

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