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Post election pastoral statement
Churches in Manicaland
May 06, 2005

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.

We noted:

  1. 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.
  2. The day of balloting was largely peaceful.
  3. 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 feel proud.

We did, however, note a number of anomalies, particularly in rural constituencies:

  1. Some polling stations were situated near the homes of traditional leaders.
  2. Many voters believed that their ballot papers could be read because of the use of translucent ballot boxes.
  3. Requesting voters to line up in alphabetical order created unnecessary tension.
  4. Confusion 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.
  5. Communication 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.
  6. 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.

The anomalies 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 them.

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 absent.

The electoral 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. 

The need for inclusion and dialogue:
Perceived 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.

The building of confidence in the electoral institutions:
People 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.

The need for a new home-grown Constitution:
The 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.

The right to food:
We 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.

The need for continued zero tolerance of intimidation and violence:
Whenever 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 election 2002).

Daunting and 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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