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election pastoral statement
Prior to the
recent March 2005 Parliamentary Election, the Churches in Manicaland
published a pastoral statement ‘True Peace, Justice and Freedom’
in which we appealed to the electoral candidates, the electorate
itself and authority figures to promote peace, justice and integrity
in all matters concerning the election. We now offer a further pastoral
statement in the aftermath of recent events.
- The relative
absence of physical violence in the immediate pre-election period.
This reflected the positive attitude of zero tolerance of violence
on the part of the police. For this we are grateful.
- The day of
balloting was largely peaceful.
- Most of those
associated with the logistics of the ballot carried out their
duties in a professional manner. For this we as a nation can rightly
however, note a number of anomalies, particularly in rural constituencies:
- Some polling
stations were situated near the homes of traditional leaders.
- Many voters
believed that their ballot papers could be read because of the
use of translucent ballot boxes.
voters to line up in alphabetical order created unnecessary tension.
existed as to where voters should cast their ballot. Many failed
to vote as the polling stations they were accustomed to use no
longer had their name on the station register.
between the polling stations where ballots were counted and the
centres where results were declared proved to be a very grey area.
Serious discrepancies were noted in a number of constituencies.
- Postal voting
was confined to a select minority and was undertaken without observation.
The above anomalies
must be viewed against the background of a lack of confidence in
the polling event itself. Thus changes to the accustomed voting
pattern were often viewed with great mistrust as many rural communities
in particular, feared retribution if how they voted became known.
focus on issues related to the days surrounding the day of balloting
and the day itself. An election, however, is much more than a narrow
event confined to canvassing voters, a day of balloting, the
subsequent counting of votes and declaration of results. An election
is a broad process in which the narrow event plays only a part.
This process takes place over a considerable period of time. Central
to it is the social, economic and political environment which largely
determines how voters decide whom they will choose to represent
A healthy electoral
environment exists where inclusion, participation, dialogue, openness,
honesty and accountability are espoused values that promote the
flourishing of human dignity and human life. An unhealthy environment
exists where there is closure of public space, partisan media, absence
of debate, divisive rhetoric, secrecy, suspicion, threats, intimidation,
fear and physical violence. In such an environment the human person
becomes a tool of systems and structures which deny his/her essential
nature as a spiritual being.
In a matter
of grave concern to the Churches in Manicaland that a healthy electoral
environment has been largely absent in Zimbabwe in recent times.
The absence has greatly affected the integrity of the recent electoral
process. As Christian leaders we are very conscious that while it
is incumbent upon the electoral authorities to technically declare
winners and losers, a whole nation loses where moral integrity is
environment in Zimbabwe has been bleeding for a considerable period
of time. Past wounds will continue to fester; affecting future electoral
processes, unless healing takes place in the coming period of time.
For healing to occur, a number of priority issues must be addressed.
for inclusion and dialogue:
enemies continue to be largely excluded from substantive dialogue
as the political impasse continues. It takes a brave person to go
beyond the politics of rhetoric and seek genuine meeting of minds
where opposing views are tolerated and enrichment takes place. Yet
such bravery is vitally needed; our people desire dialogue and reconciliation,
not confrontation and animosity. As Christians we are called ‘to
love our enemies, to do good to those who hate us, to bless those
who curse us’ (Luke 6:27). When this happens one’s perceived enemy
becomes a friend in the making.
of confidence in the electoral institutions:
have become very suspicious of the institutions that govern elections;
some have withdrawn from the electoral process itself by not voting.
The electoral institutions in Zimbabwe need to be reformed and the
directives and guidelines for such reform have been stipulated by
the SADC protocol, August 2004. The SADC agenda is demanding but
Zimbabwe has signed up to it and our word must be our bond. In so
far as this reform is internally desired rather than externally
imposed confidence will grow once again.
for a new home-grown Constitution:
Constitution is the supreme law of the land. It defines how our
society is to be governed, the rights and duties of citizens, etc.
Our current Constitution is not homegrown. It is a document of expediency
rather than one of desire. It has been amended so many times that
its image is tarnished. The Constitutional issue must be genuinely
re-addressed if the aspirations of our people for true autonomy
and self-esteem are to be realised.
may offer excuses or apportion blame but the fact remains that Zimbabwe
does not, at this time, have enough food to feed its own people.
Hunger affects the human body; being an affront to human dignity
it also affects the soul. The threat of withdrawal of food aid bedevilled
many vulnerable rural communities in Manicaland in the recent election.
Jesus has terrible words to say to those who ‘saw him hungry
and did not give him food’ (Mathew 25:41-42). Once again we
condemn this insidious practice. Access to food for hungry widows,
orphans and children is not a privilege but a right. Everything
possible must be done to make food available to hungry people without
discrimination and to enable our nation to feed itself.
for continued zero tolerance of intimidation and violence:
our physical body is threatened, our inalienable human dignity is
also demeaned. Intimidation and violence are stone-age tactics that
can have no place in our lives. They undermine all that we as a
nation stand for. We must learn to resolve our grievances and manage
our conflicts in a mature, responsible manner. We continue to encourage
law enforcement agents to be vigilant in fulfilling their constitutional
obligation to protect all citizens without fear or favour.
In the aftermath
of this election we continue to appeal to those newly elected, to
the electorate and to authority figures to ‘strive to realise
the basic principles of justice, mercy and compassion (Mathew 23:23)
in the society in which we live. This will require rejecting the
culture of lies and hypocrisy and intimidation and . . . the promotion
of honesty, truth and self-sacrifice within private and public institutions’
(quotation from Churches in Manicaland statement, post-Presidential
challenging tasks lie ahead. They must be realised hand-in-hand
as we face the future with courage and hope. As Churches in Manicaland
we are not aligned to any particular interest group or political
party. We are strictly non-partisan in regard to party politics.
We pray that our vision for our beloved country may be embraced
by others so that we may all experience greater freedom and the
fullness of life and love.
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