Photo Credit: Zambian Council of Churches
The ecumenical body representing the Christian churches in Zimbabwe has called for an end to sanctions and international isolation imposed on the country. In a “pastoral statement” issued on Friday (3 August), after the announcement of the country’s presidential election results, the Churches include a message to the international community in which they say punitive measures imposed on Zimbabwe will affect ordinary Zimbabweans rather than the country’s leaders.
“We plead with the international community not [to] continue the isolation of Zimbabwe on the basis of shortcomings of this election,” the ZCC said. “You are fully aware that the punitive measures on the new government will not affect those in leadership but the ordinary Zimbabweans. We believe that it is in the opportunity for Zimbabweans’ access to health care, education and basic social services that the nation will flourish and grow a robust democracy.
“We plead with the international community to continue accompanying our new government and civil society and churches with the effort of strengthening these mutually enriching institutions for the maturation of our democracy.”
The Pastoral Statement begins with an acceptance that the results announced by Zimbabwe’s Electoral Commission (ZEC) “are consistent with the Sample Based Observation Projections” produced by the Zimbabwe Electoral Support Network. But it calls on ZEC to publish “polling-level results for all elections including the Presidential election, for transparency and accountability.”
And it calls on “all Zimbabweans to be peaceful and for aggrieved parties to seek peaceful and legal redress and exercise restraint.”
They say that the Churches, which acted as independent election observers, “may not have the means to accept or rejection the objections” to the election results raised by the opposition MDC Alliance. “We pray that these objections will be expressed in a peaceful and legal manner”, they said. “We also pray that they will receive a fair and just hearing in accordance with the nation’s laws and constitution.”
In a section addressed to the leaders of Zanu-PF, the victorious party in the elections, the ZCC asked them to “create avenues for inclusive dialogue and engagement as well as to heed the complaints raised by the MDC Alliance.”
They said: “The nation needs you to commit to a nation building dialogue process aimed at uniting the nation and creating an inclusive way forward.” And they called for formal constitutional recognition of the leader of the main opposition leader “consistent with practices in other developed democracies.”
They also addressed the leaders of the MDC Alliance, saying: “We acknowledge your frustrations and dissatisfactions regarding the electoral environment in Zimbabwe” and say that they are praying “that you may address your dissatisfactions through the courts of law with the aim of seeking just redress.”
If this is not possible, they say, “the Church leadership makes itself available to facilitate other platforms of engagement as to bring mutually satisfactory closure to the current situation.”
They add: “We also plead with the MDC Alliance leadership to bear in mind the pressing need to maintain peace and not take actions that may easily deteriorate to chaos. Volatile situations tend to deteriorate and attain a life of their own beyond anyone’s control. National peace is a mutual responsible endeavour that requires you to play your part towards its full attainment.”
They conclude their Pastoral Statement with a message to “the people of Zimbabwe”. Drawing inspiration from the story of Hagar’s well in Genesis 21, they said: “Peace is not going to be achieved in the absence of justice. As long as there are Zimbabweans crying, as long as there are Zimbabweans who feel excluded and marginalised, as long as there are Zimbabweans who are thirsty, as long as there are Zimbabweans who are wondering in the diaspora longing to come home but are afraid of uncertainties, God looks and hears their cry from heaven.
“God is saying the solution is not far away, the fountain is just close by. Let us all open our eyes, we have the solution. The solution lies not in our separation but in our reconciliation on the basis of justice.”
The Zimbabwe Council of Churches brings together a number of Christian Churches, including the Anglican Dioceses of Central Zimbabwe, Harare, Manicaland, Matebeleland, and Masvingo in the Church of the Province of Central Africa.
Yesterday (Sunday), the churches in Manicaland came together for an ecumenical prayer service for peace to prevail in Zimbabwe. During the service, they called on all leaders to seek peace and pursue it for Zimbabwe to become “a united, just and prosperous nation.”