03 August 2018, The Tablet

Catholics offer to mediate Zimbabwe election disputes

by Munyaradzi Makoni

As Church, we condemn the killing of the demonstrators and all the ruthless force used by the Zimbabwe Defence Forces on 1 August 2018

Catholics offer to mediate Zimbabwe election disputes

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa
Shaun Jusa/Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

At 00.40 on the morning of 3 August Emmerson Mnangagwa was announced to have won Zimbabwe's presidential election. 

Out of 23 presidential candidates, only two received significant support. Nelson Chamisa of the Movement for Democratic Change-Alliance received 2,147,436 votes, constituting 44.3 per cent of the total. Emmerson Mnangagwa, leader of Zanu-PF, received 2,460,463 votes, constituting 50.8 per cent of the total. The breaking of the 50 per cent barrier by Mr Mnangagwa meant there would be no need for a second-round run-off. Mr Chamisa has made his intention clear to contest the result.

The country went to polls on 30 July to elect a new president and members of parliament, but on 1 August, three people were killed in clashes with army and the police. Opposition supporters took to the streets of the capital Harare as the ruling Zanu-PF party was reported to have secured a parliamentary majority in the country’s first election since independence without Robert Mugabe. The Zimbabwe Election Commission (ZEC) said Zanu-PF had won 144 out of 210 parliamentary seats.

But supporters of the opposition MDC-Alliance were demonstrating not in response to this announcement but against the delay in the announcement of the presidential result, in the belief that the delay meant the result was being rigged. Some marched to the gates of the ZEC in the capital where riot police were massed. In particular they demanded the announcement be made before the lapse of the five-day period stipulated in the constitution. The army and the police fired live ammunition into the crowds of demonstrating men and women killing three. Three other people later died of their injuries.

Catholic bishops in Zimbabwe are offering to mediate in post-election disputes, to prevent further violence.

Bishop Rudolf Nyandoro, the Catholic Commission of Justice and Peace (CCJP) chairperson condemned the use of live ammunition on unarmed civilians.

“As Church, we condemn the killing of the demonstrators and all the ruthless force used by the Zimbabwe Defence Forces and the Zimbabwe Republic Police on 1 August 2018,” said Nyandoro, the bishop of Gokwe Diocese, adding it undermines basic human rights and values of human life and human dignity.

“We equally blame the use of violent protests and destruction of property when citizens have grievances,” he added.

Earlier, on 29 June, the bishops issued a pre-election Pastoral Letter “Opening A New Door: The July 2018 Elections and Beyond” commending the relative peace Zimbabwe had experienced before the election period.

The bishop asked the army and police to apologise for the excessive use of force to the nation and the bereaved families that lost their loved ones in the shooting. Saying “sorry” would open doors for healing and rebuilding of good relationships between citizens and their defence forces, he said.

Nyandoro proposed the need for an inclusive, objective, internally constructed process to resolve the immediate electoral conflict

He said the Churches of Zimbabwe were available as a mediation resource for all-sides, offering confidential dialogue in the short, medium and long-term.

“The conference will set up a mediation that will assist the church to help with the situation, should election results be contested,” said Nyandoro.

The bishop said everybody must understand that Zimbabwe’s crisis is deeper than those emanating from the elections.

“There is need for a holistic national peace and reconciliation process that goes beyond electoral disputes,” Nyandoro said, asking all political parties to use the safe space promised by the Church for peace building and “inclusion to address the immediate and deeper problems affecting the Zimbabwe we all want.”

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