The Zimbabwe council of Churches (ZCC) in solidarity with the Zimbabwe Heads of Christian Denominations has called for the people of Zimbabwe to unite and promote peace in the aftermath of the 2018 harmonised elections.
Addressing the press yesterday (Friday 3 August 2018), Rev. Dr Kenneth Mtata, the General Secretary of Zimbabwe Council of Churches said the announcement of official results by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) a day before marked the end of a critical stage in what has been a highly contested and emotive electoral process.
He said throughout the process, the church mobilised millions of its members to participate in a prayerful, informed and peaceful manner and will continue in like manner as Zimbabwe charts its way forward towards unity, peace, justice and prosperity.
The ZCC noted that several factors brought about the sense that the electoral results would inevitably be contested. These factors include the enduring perception that Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) was not fully independent; the sense that the electoral playing field remains uneven whilst favouring incumbents; the existing deep national polarisation across political, tribal, gender, class and other distinctions; the growing tensions over unresolved and lingering past hurts and pains; and the reality of economic hardship, joblessness and declining standards of living for most Zimbabweans.
“The Zimbabwe Council of Churches echoes the technical conclusions by the Zimbabwe Electoral Support Network that “ZEC announced official results are consistent with the Sample Based Observation projections”. The ZCC further echoes ZESN’s calls for ZEC to urgently release on its website the polling level results for all elections including the Presidential election, for transparency and accountability; for all Zimbabweans to be peaceful and for aggrieved parties to seek peaceful and legal redress and exercise restraint.
“As we speak, we understand that the MDC Alliance has raised objections to the official results especially the presidential election results. As the churches we may not have the means to accept or reject the objections raised by the MDC Alliance. We pray that these objections will be expressed in a peaceful and legal manner. We also pray that they will receive a fair and just hearing in accordance with the nation’s laws and constitution,” the ZCC said.
From the announced results, the ZCC noteD with deep concern that the nation is deeply divided. It said the deepening polarisation between urban and rural voters, younger and older voters, as well as richer and poorer voters requires urgent redress through a holistic process of nation building and envisioning.
In that realm, the cry of different sectors of the population requires both a pastoral and prophetic response.
The ZCC urged ZANU PF to create avenues for inclusive dialogue and engagement as well as to heed the complaints raised by the MDC Alliance.
“The nation needs you to commit to a nation building dialogue process aimed at uniting the nation and creating an inclusive way forward. We ask you to consider and prioritise a formal constitutional recognition for the leader of the main opposition consistent with practices in other developed democracies,” ZANU PF was told.
The Christian body said there was need for a major revisiting of the electoral laws so as to restore the integrity of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission. Going forward, it encouraged the newly appointed ZANU PF Parliamentarians and Councillors to seek to promote justice and allow the freedoms to continue flourishing.
The ZCC said it acknowledges the frustrations and dissatisfactions of the MDC Alliance regarding the electoral environment in Zimbabwe but urged the party to address its dissatisfactions through the courts of law with the aim of seeking just redress.
“In case the MDC Alliance does not trust to get a fair hearing in the courts, the church leadership makes itself available to facilitate other platforms of engagement as to bring mutually satisfactory closure to the current situation. We also plead with the MDC Alliance leadership to bear in mind the pressing need to maintain peace and not take actions that may easily deteriorate to chaos. Volatile situations tend to deteriorate and attain a life of their own beyond anyone’s control.”
The ZCC emphasised that national peace is a mutually responsible endeavour that requires the MDC Alliance to play its part towards its full attainment.
The international community has taken interest at the invitation of being observers in this election. ZCC was grateful of the international community’s opinions based on its brief experiences.
“We plead with the international community not continue the isolation of Zimbabwe on the basis of shortcomings of this election. You are fully aware that the punitive measures on the new government will not affect those in leadership but the ordinary Zimbabweans. We believe that it is in the opportunities for Zimbabweans’ access to health care, education and basic social services that the nation will flourish and grow a robust democracy.
“We plead with the international community to continue accompanying our new government and civil society and churches with the effort of strengthening these mutually enriching institutions for the maturation of our democracy.”
The ZCC recognises the contribution of the security sector in November 2017 but remains worried that since that time, there remains deep suspicion within and among the different security forces.
It reiterated the fact that the church and citizens feel anxious and unsettled fearing the prospect of instability and pleaded with the President to urgently constitute a broad-based security services reforms that will guarantee the professionalism of the security forces.
To the people of Zimbabwe, the ZCC said peace is not going to be achieved in the absence of justice.
“As long as there are Zimbabweans crying, as long as there are Zimbabweans who feel excluded and marginalised, as long as there are Zimbabweans who are thirsty, as long as there are Zimbabweans who are wondering in the diaspora longing to come home but are afraid of uncertainties, God looks and hears their cry from heaven. God is saying the solution is not far away, the fountain is just close by. Let us all open our eyes, we have the solution. The solution lies not in our separation but in our reconciliation on the basis of justice.”