Zimbabwe holds long-delayed elections, and Church leaders urge government institutions to conduct peaceful polls. They also call out previous misconduct by security forces and other human rights offenders.
As the country prepares to vote, Zimbabwe’s Catholic Bishops and leaders of other faiths issued a Pastoral Statement titled, The Elections We Want. The Statement calls for free, fair, and peaceful elections.
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Let voters make informed decisions
The “election management body (the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission) and other relevant institutions (should) provide timely, accurate and complete information to the electorate to enable them to make informed decisions throughout the election period.”
The Elections We Want Statement was signed by the Archbishop of Harare, Robert Ndlovu, as head of the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference. Other signatories include Bishop L M Khanye of the Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC), Bishop N Muparutsa- Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe (EFZ) and Bishop P N Makamba – Union for Development of Apostolic and Zionist Churches in Zimbabwe (UDACIZA).
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) in 2020 suspended the holding of by-elections. This was in line with government COVID-19 regulations and protocols to curtail the pandemic’s spread.
However, early last month, President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced 26 March as the date for the long-awaited by-elections. The elections will fill vacancies in the National Assembly and various local authorities across the country.
Pray, Register, Vote campaign
In line with the Church leaders’ Pastoral Statement, Catholic institutions such as the National Movement of Catholic Students (NMCS) have since gone on a drive to target young voters through their Pray, Register, Vote campaign.
The Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) National Coordinator, Mr Paul Muchena, confirmed that as in previous elections, CCJP would mobilise, train and deploy election observers across constituencies.
“CCJP has already mobilised resources for observer training, deployment and documentation of the pre-by-elections, by-elections day and post-by-elections day,” said Muchena.
Professional conduct expected of the country’s security.
In their Statement, the church leaders further urged the country’s security forces to act professionally and in a non-partisan manner to avoid loss of lives as has happened in the past.
Elections should be guided by “professional and non-partisan conduct of our security forces as they discharge their constitutional duties,” and that there should be an “absence of a single soul that is lost before, during and after the by-elections due to political violence,” the Church leaders affirmed.
(JESCOM News) – Kudakwashe Matambo – Harare, Zimbabwe.