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Statement on the National Peace Convention (NPC)
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition
December 14, 2002

Zimbabweans have had enough of violence, agreed church leaders and civil society actors gathered from across the country at a National Peace Convention in Bulawayo. The group met from 13-14 December, 2002, to develop an action-oriented, non-partisan response to Zimbabwe’s growing crises and spiralling violence.

Church leaders resoundingly agreed to drive the peace process in their congregations, and civil society leaders committed to immediate responses to address the growing violence and intolerance in Zimbabwe.

The gathering was attended by over 300 people, including 8 bishops from a variety of denominations such as Catholic, Anglican, Brethren in Christ and Evangelical churches. Over 70 pastors also attended. In addition, delegates from over 50 civil society organisations (including women’s, youth, labour and municipal representatives) participated in the convention.

The gathering opened up dialogue across denominational divides and outlined practical steps designed to address specific issues through a national Solidarity for Peace Accord. The document is a framework for peace building in Zimbabwe, and sets out a code of conduct as well as procedures and mechanisms designed to mitigate violence.

Speaking with a united voice, church leaders and civil society actors identified the agenda of peace as a rallying point on which to win the struggle for democracy, eradicate violence, intolerance and polarisation, and allow for coexistence.

"We commit ourselves to working to achieve stability and to consolidating the peace process by the introduction of reconstruction actions aimed at addressing the worst effects of violence at a local level," reads part of the national Solidarity for Peace Accord.

Discussion at the Convention also focused on the methodology and time frame required to establish a process of truth, justice and reconciliation in Zimbabwe. Participants also raised the issue of regional solidarity and what Zimbabweans can do to draw support from the region and ensure that the country does not become isolated in its hour of crisis. Delegates developed concrete action plans to tackle these issues, and the others raised at the convention.

Specifically, discussions about governance called for a restoration of democratic institutions and civil rights as well as the cessation of the politics of chaos witnessed over the last two years. In his opening remarks, Reverend Charles Chiriseri urged participants to break the historical cycle of violence plaguing Zimbabwe. He said, "we must shun stone age politics that base human relationships on who has a bigger stick to beat with or a larger stone to throw. I urge you all, across all creeds, races, and ethnicities, to build relationships on respect, tolerance and human dignity."

Participants agreed on the urgent need for agrarian reform, but insisted that it be a non-partisan, equitable and long-term process designed around national development, social stability and economic growth.

Linked to the agrarian reform debate was the issue of food security. Participants condemned the current partisan distribution of food aid which threatens over 8 million Zimbabweans with starvation. Archbishop Pius Ncube of the Catholic Diocese of Bulawayo urged that immediate action be taken to feed starving Zimbabweans, sentiments which were echoed by Bishop Sitshebo of the Anglican Church Matabeleland. Delegates established a taskforce to end the state monopoly on importation and distribution, and to promote the liberalisation of food importation to permit business, churches and civil society groups to help feed the nation.

Participants labelled the AIDS pandemic a "crisis within the crisis," as economic hardship, poor implementation of assistance programmes, and non-transparent disbursement of relief funds are exacerbating the suffering of those infected with and affected by HIV. A call was made for government’s multisectoral approach to HIV/AIDS to be consolidated into an implementable plan of action agreed on by all stakeholders. Participants agreed that the action plan should be specific in offering support to people infected with and affected by HIV/AIDS.

Pastor Patson Netha of the Association of Evangelicals in Africa reiterated the commitment of church groups to bringing peace to Zimbabwe. The convention, he said, "is not an event, but a process. The church is coming together to stand and say ‘we have role to play in Zimbabwe’, a prophetic, priestly, pastoral role as the conscience of the nation."

Netha affirmed the need for all church groupings, civil society organisations and concerned individuals to move beyond individual difference and unite in a commitment to immediate action and the creation of another Zimbabwe, with peace, truth and justice.

Visit the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition fact sheet

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