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  • Zimbabwe's Elections 2013 - Index of Articles

  • Statement by Southern African religious leaders at the conclusion of a solidarity visit to Zimbabwe
    Fellowship of Christian Councils in Southern Africa (FOCCISA)
    July 16, 2013

    In solidarity with the churches and the people of Zimbabwe, we as religious leaders from the Fellowship of Christian Councils in Southern Africa (FOCCISA) have been in Zimbabwe from the 7th of July to the 10th of July on a solidary visit ahead of elections.

    During the solidarity visit our delegation of 12, which was in the country at the invitation of the Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC) visited Chinhoyi, Bindura, Harare, Masvingo, Mutare, Gweru, and Bulawayo. We met with Zimbabwean church leaders, civic leaders and officials in government departments responsible for the conduct of elections and we were able to convey the message of unity. We were able to hear from them, the country’s state of preparedness for the polls, assess and gain greater understanding of the situation in the country. We had come to share, learn and pray with Zimbabweans and offer support for them to find solutions that will allow the country to arrive at reconciliation and rebuild the nation.

    We urge Zimbabweans to set aside denominational and personal differences as the country goes through what is potentially a divisive election period when political tensions are heightened. We implore them not to engage in utterances or actions that may threaten the rule of law, peace and security. We would like to see a free and fair election which is held according to the laws of the country, reflects the will of the people of Zimbabwe and meets international standards for democratic elections. We urge the church to speak out clearly on all issues that relate to the conduct of free and fair elections and the well being of the country.

    Our observation as the church informed by the recent visit is that there are difficulties surrounding preparations for these elections, a view shared by the leadership of the church in Zimbabwe. We therefore call on the entire church in the sub-region, region and the world to pray for peace, to be prophetic and exercise its pastoral responsibility and solidarity with the people of Zimbabwe. We request the church throughout the world to join the church in Zimbabwe on an Ecumenical Cathedral on the 21st July 2013, to pray for the Elections and Peace in Zimbabwe. Beloved of God, the God that we serve is a God of miracles and he is able to create something good out of chaos.

    Political violence

    There remain justifiable concerns about the threat of violence and the resurgence of political violence which has marred previous elections and which could threaten national peace and security. Civic society players and church leaders we met during the course of our visit spoke of the need for political commitment to the political parties’ code of conduct which is aimed at minimizing political conflict and eradicating intimidation. They also said there were grave concerns in too many parts of the country about possible post-election retribution as happened in 2008 when certain sections of the population suffered for their choices. The unpredictability of what lies ahead has become a great source of concern for many. We urge the police and other security agents to stand aside and allow the vote to proceed without intimidation. We the churches of Southern Africa do not want to see a repeat of the political violence of 2008. We will continue to advocate for the observance of the rule of law, the respect and promotion of human rights.

    Disenfranchisement of voters

    We received with concern reports about delays in the registration process and the challenges faced by so called “aliens” in obtaining identity documents which would have allowed them to register to vote. There is a mismatch between the situation on the ground and the provisions of the new constitution in regard to these “aliens”. The process of renouncing their citizenship of other countries and trying to get new documentation was laborious and left many unable to register. Many Zimbabweans in rural areas found the distances they had to travel to registration centres long, while the registration requirements were an additional burden to this section of the population. More could have been done to inform the nation about the requirements for voter registration. All these issues have disenfranchised thousands of Zimbabweans and are likely compound voter apathy.

    The role of the church

    We noted with sadness that some political parties have divided the churches and have attempted to manipulate them for political gain. We therefore implore the church to remain united and not to be used to serve narrow political interests. Religious leaders were in some places being forced to attend political meetings. The churches have a critical role to play in reducing tensions. We encourage the church through its extended country-wide networks to use prayer meetings and civic education to openly campaign for peace. The church should take up the crucial role of intercession through mobilizing Zimbabweans to pray for a peaceful election process.

    Media access

    The churches and civic groups we met also bemoaned the lack of equal access by political parties to the media in particular the state owned media. Sadly media coverage in much of the press was tainted with glaring bias. All media is urged to refrain from using hate language and to ensure fair and accurate reporting of the entire electoral process from the campaigns to the tallying of votes.

    Participation of women, youth and Christians

    Sadly it was noted that there did not exist an enabling environment for the participation in politics of youth, women and Christians and as a result they remained at the periphery of politics. In some Christian quarters, the reason for this is that politics is regarded as dirty. We are also concerned about the distribution of beer at political meetings and rallies especially among young people as this was viewed as a way of buying youth votes.

    The role of observers

    Concerns were raised about the role of election observers who were too often quick to declare elections free and fair. Observers should be cautious in coming up with reports on the conduct of elections and are urged to include the views of as broad a section of the population as possible.

    The members of the ecumenical delegation wish to thank everyone they met for their openness and, in particular, ZCC for welcoming and accompanying the delegation round the country. By sharing their combined experience the ecumenical team will hopefully strengthen the capacity of religious communities and networks to observe the polls. They can share best practice and contribute to the observance of standards demanded by church for the holding of free elections. The church can bring together various players to enrich responses to challenges faced by Zimbabweans. We will continue to offer support in the seeking of solutions that will allow Zimbabweans to arrive at reconciliation and make recommendations that will help mitigate and prevent future conflict.

    We call on the leadership and citizens of Zimbabwe, to be tolerant and maintain Peace. All should put the country first, for Zimbabwe cannot afford the battering it received following the 2008 Elections. The Church will continue to engage the leadership of the Region under SADC and relevant stakeholders and alert them to the fears and aspirations of the people of Zimbabwe.

    Scripture declares and faith accepts that Peace is not an option but a Gospel imperative: “What does the Lord require of you? To do justice, love kindness & walk humbly with Him.” (Micah 6:6-8), “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives” (John 14:27).

    Our prayer is that Peace, Justice, Tolerance, Fairness, Reconciliation and all the other Values of the Kingdom of God may prevail in Zimbabwe during the upcoming Elections.

    The members of the ecumenical delegation were:

    Rev Mmachakga Mpho Moruakgomo - Botswana (Head of delegation), Rev. Lucas Amosse Board Mozambique Council - Mozambique, Rev. Pearson Banda - Zambia, Rev. Chizason Chunda - Zambia, Rev. Suzanne Matale - Zambia, Rev. Gideon C. M. Dlamini - Swaziland, Mr Godfrey Mkandawire - Malawi, Rev. Rupert Isaac Hambira - Botswana, Bishop Gilford Immanuel Matonga - Malawi, Rev. Gosiame Goodenough Chaobi - South Africa, Mrs Elma Dienda - Namibia, Mrs Masara Idlette Mathaha - Lesotho.

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