Zimbabwe’s church leaders offer to mediate election dispute

Zimbabwe’s church leaders offer to mediate election dispute

HARARE: Christian leaders in Zimbabwe have offered to mediate disputesarising from the just concluded general elections to help maintain peace in the Southern African nation.

Zimbabwe’s opposition, Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC) party, has disputed the declaration of the incumbent Emmerson Mnangagwa as the winner of the presidential race in the August 23-24 polls and called for “a fresh and … proper election and African mediation.

Late August 26, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) declared President Mnangagwa of the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union- Patriotic Front (ZANU PF) winner of the Presidential election, with approximately 53 percent of the vote, against 44 percent that CCC’s Nelson Chamisa garnered.

“The Church stands ready to offer support, guidance, and mediation where necessary, to ensure that the nation remains peaceful in this post-election period,” the church leaders under the auspices of Zimbabwe Heads of Christian Denominations (ZHOCD) say in a Monday, August 28 statement.

The church leaders who represent the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference (ZCBC), the Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC), Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe (EFZ) and the Union for the Development of Apostolic Churches in Zimbabwe Africa (UDACIZA) add, “By promoting peace, cohesion, harmony, and tolerance, we sow the seeds for a Zimbabwe that is peaceful, united, prosperous, and harmonious.”

In their statement, ZHOCD members also raise concerns about the ZEC’s lack of preparedness in conducting the elections that saw the voters elect the President, Members of Parliament (MPs), and Councilors.

They say ZEC unpreparedness was seen in the failure of polling stations to open on time.

“It is worrisome to note that only 23% of the polling stations opened on time in most constituencies in Harare and Bulawayo. Some polling stations could not open for up to 2300 hours while some were not opened on the first polling day,” ZHOCD officials lament.

They further note, “The above anomaly disenfranchised voters from polling stations which were opened late into the night. Some voters had to wait through the night to cast their vote. Women and the elderly were most affected as they felt insecure to walk at night to go to and from the polling stations.”

The Christian leaders also say they are “deeply concerned” about the raid and detention of Election Resource Centre (ERC) and Zimbabwe Elections Support Network (ZESN) officials.

Official of ERC and ZESN were arrested on August 24 for allegedly attempting to post the general election results. The 41 accused persons were released on US$200.00 bail each on August 26.

“The Church believes that the actions are not in the spirit of the Zimbabwean Constitution and the Electoral Act Section 40 which allows civil society organizations and citizens to observe electoral processes,” say the ZHOCD members.

The European Union and Southern African Development Community(SADC) have also raised concerns about flaws in recent general elections in Zimbabwe.

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