Zimbabwe Council of Churches Pastoral Announcement
He promises peace to his people, his faithful servants— but let them not turn to folly…’ Psalm 85:8
1. The Zimbabwe Council of Churches joins the Apostle Paul in encouraging all Christians ‘…first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanks-giving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior…’ (1 Timothy 2 verse 1-3)
2. We continue to encourage all Christians to prayerfully act towards peace and unity before, during and after the 2018 harmonized elections. We praise God that save for some disturbances the pre-election environment has been relatively calm and peaceful. Many Political leaders have rightly made public commitments to promote peace and tolerance. Citizens have been allowed to freely exercise their civil and political rights. Our defense forces have remained in their barracks. Many peaceful dialogues and debates have enabled candidates of different political views to present their ideas to the people. Many communities have had the opportunity to host political events in an atmosphere of peace and tolerance. This is also good and pleases God our Savior.
3. However we are saddened to observe worrying threats to the peace and unity we all need for our nation to prosper.
4. The growing perception of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) as lacking independence is creating despondency amongst voters. This growing narrative has in this age of social media closed space for electoral disputes to be resolved in a rational and fair manner by acceptable dispute resolution mechanisms. The stereotyping and demonization of public officials in ZEC undermines the dignity and authority of the offices they are entrusted. It is not in the nation’s best interest.
- The Church encourages ZEC to regain public trust and confidence by asserting its independence and faithfully discharging its duties in accordance with the Constitution.
- The Church also encourages ZEC to improve its communication and engagement with the public and to raise awareness about efforts to address legitimate concerns within its capabilities and mandate.
- The Church pleads with political parties in their airing of demands to ZEC to remain factual, constitutional and to maintain a posture of respect so as not to undermine the integrity of ZEC as the only Constitutional body mandated to run elections in Zimbabwe.
- Grievances and concerns about ZEC must be aired in a manner that does not provoke extreme reactions on all sides.
5. The Church is worried about the growing zero sum game where ‘only a win will do’. The Church finds it deeply distressing that some parties and political candidates openly express doubts about their willingness to accept a negative result.
- The church again pleads with political actors not to use campaign platforms to turn citizens against each other.
- Political parties in their political rhetoric must not close the doors for Zimbabweans and for political leaders to work together in the aftermath of the elections.
- The Church will therefore invite political party leaders to Pre-election Inter-Party Dialogue meetings to find ways to normalize strained relationships and to peacefully resolve election related disputes without undermining national peace and reconciliation.
6. Many people are increasingly uneasy about national security. An official announcement of the results of the investigations into the explosion at White City Stadium could help reassure the nation. It will also help prevent people from formulating conclusions that exacerbate suspicion and mistrust.
- The Church therefore calls upon the relevant government authorities to conclude their investigation and publicly announce their findings so as to reassure the nation and the people of Bulawayo in particular that our politics will be free of guns and bombs.
7. The Church is also concerned about the polarized reporting in the media. Reporting that favors one party or candidate over the other or twists facts to suit political agendas only serves to weaken our democracy.
- The Church calls upon the media to do more to ensure fair and balanced coverage of the elections bearing in mind the volatility of the situation.
- Only the truth can free the people of Zimbabwe to collectively build the peaceful, just and prosperous future they desire as free and equal citizens in the country they call home. “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32)
8. The Church raises strong exception to the use of campaign platforms to inflame ethnic and tribal divisions.
- The Church reiterates its call for a national dialogue to address the deep-seated unresolved pain and hurts of the past. In the meantime the Church pleads with parties and candidates in their political rhetoric to honor and uphold the unity of Zimbabweans.
- The Church also calls upon political actors not to exploit past hurts to champion their political agendas during this volatile election period.
9. The Church is ashamed at the pervasive use of social media to spread shameful, sexist and patriarchal representations attacking female candidates and election officials. This diminishes the dignity of the women who do much to make our country great. It also undermines the public role of women in promoting a healthy and inclusive democratic order in which capable women have fair and equal opportunities to lead alongside their male
- God created all people equal. “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female…” (Galatians 3:28). The church calls upon all citizens to be responsible in their use of social media in ways that promote dignity of all women of Zimbabwe as equal citizens and capable leaders.
- The Church asks all Christians to observe a simple social media rule: ‘If it is offensive – don’t share it!’
10. The Church acknowledges that many amongst us are hurting and struggling to get through life. Whilst campaign platforms have allowed many to vent their anger and express their grievances the nation still needs to find ways to work together to pursue the peaceful, just and prosperous Zimbabwe we de-sire. We will still need to find each other and live together after the elections.
- The Church encourages parties and candidates to promote solution seeking dialogue and engagement to find lasting ways to address the challenges that Zimbabweans are facing in their daily lives.
The Church will do more to play its part alongside all those who love this country regardless of their party, gender, tribe or persuasion to help find ways to collectively: create jobs; fight corruption; provide adequate basic services; restore broken relationships and fulfill the constitutional promise of a peaceful, just and prosperous society in our lifetimes.
‘Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, will be with us in truth and love.’ 2 John 1 verse 3