Churches Call For "Honest And Inclusive Dialogue" After "Flawed" Polls2 weeks ago
The Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC) has reiterated its call for “honest and inclusive dialogue” after the disputed 2023 Harmonised Elections.
ZCC represents mainline churches such as the Roman Catholic Church, Methodist Church, Presbyterian Church of Africa, Evangelical Lutheran Church and the Salvation Army.
In a statement released on 06 September 2023, ZCC commended Zimbabweans for voting peacefully and the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) for maintaining peace and order across the country during the polling days.
However, ZCC said it noted “significant flaws” which include delays in the opening of polling stations, shortages of voting materials, coercion, missing names in the voter’s roll, electoral disinformation, and intimidation of voters especially in rural areas.
Read the full statement by the Zimbabwe Council of Churches below:
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The Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC) would like to commend the people of Zimbabwe for conducting themselves in a peaceful manner during the just-ended Harmonised Elections that were held on 23 and 24 August 2023.
The Church would want to applaud all the political parties for respecting the Peace pledges that they signed pledging to promote and maintain peace before during and after the Harmonised elections.
This election process was subsequently followed by the inauguration of the President, His Excellency Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa as the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe on 04 September 2023 after being declared the winner by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission.
This will be followed by the swearing-in of the Members of Parliament and Ward Councillors. The Church however notes with concern the disputes over results and the expression of dissatisfaction by the opposition and frustration among some of the people of Zimbabwe.
The Church expresses its disappointment in that though the elections were soaked in prayer resulting in peace, tolerance, and restraint, they fell significantly short of the elections we wanted and prayed for, as they have once again produced a contested electoral Presidential result.
The Church notes with concern that the results of this election process show that our country is deeply divided.
The deepening polarization between urban and rural voters, younger and older voters, as well as richer and poorer voters, requires urgent redress through a holistic process of nation-building and envisioning.
The ZCC election observation missions noted that the August 2023 elections were characterised by significant flaws, chief among them being the delays in the opening of polling stations and the shortages of voting materials which resulted in some polling stations suspending voting as they waited for additional supplies.
Voters also faced challenges due to coercion, missing names in the voter’s roll, electoral disinformation, and intimidation of voters especially in rural areas.
We also express great concern over the role that Forever Associates of Zimbabwe (FAZ), a non-governmental organisation affiliated with the ruling party, played in the whole electoral process.
The exit poll survey that was allegedly led by the organisation resulted in widespread intimidation of voters since it involved the taking down of voters’ personal details.
The administrative challenges of the elections manifested, starting with the delimitation and nomination court processes.
Subsequently, the results have further polarised the country and sowed deep divisions that need all critical stakeholders to come together and find a path to the desired future.
As the Church, we commend the President, His Excellency E.D Mnangagwa, for extending the polling day to the 24th of August 2023 after recognising the challenges that manifested on the 23rd of August 2023.
We further appreciate the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) for maintaining peace and order across the country during the polling days, including their efforts to remove the exit survey desks that were set up largely in rural polling areas as a means to coerce the electorate.
We commend the Christians and all people of Zimbabwe for the prayers that contributed to the peaceful pre-election environment, and the resultant peace and restraint in the aftermath of elections.
The peace and tolerance that was demonstrated by all Zimbabweans during this election is something we seek to guard jealously as we continue to pray and make efforts to maintain peace.
In this post-election period and given the glaring challenges we faced with the election as well as the subsequent disputes, the Church calls upon political parties, their leaders, Chapter 12 Commissions, Traditional Leaders and the people of Zimbabwe to remain hopeful and calm and work towards building unity as the nation navigates the way forward.
The Church reiterates the call for the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to be fully transparent and release the results that are verifiable and auditable.
This is not only important because it’s mandated by the Law, but it enhances people’s trust and confidence in elected leaders and is essential in building unity, love, and peace as we all seek to work together for the betterment of our country.
As the Church, being cognizant of the deep divisions and polarity the elections have created, and the desire of Zimbabweans for peace, their love for each other and the need for unity, the Zimbabwe Council of Churches reiterates its call for honest and inclusive dialogue and engagement towards establishing a firm foundation for the transformation of our country.
The Church will continue to prayerfully engage all stakeholders including Civil Society, Independent Commissions, Security Sector and political players seeking to build a better Zimbabwe through dialogue, engagement and national reimagination.
We call upon the people of Zimbabwe to unite and pray for our political leaders and all key stakeholders to seek God’s wisdom as we collectively work towards finding a lasting solution to the challenges we are faced with.
By promoting peace, cohesion, harmony, and tolerance, we sow the seeds for a Zimbabwe that is peaceful, united, prosperous, and harmonious (Psalms 122:7-8).
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