Churches in Zimbabwe made repeated calls for calm this week after the Zanu PF ruling party leader Emmerson Mnangagwa was declared the winner of the presidential vote in a result that was disputed by Opposition leader Nelson Chamisa.
Chamisa declared himself the winner before and after the vote, and there does appear to have been a late surge in his support in the later part of the campaign. The killing of six people on the streets of Harare during pro-Chamisa protests that took place before the presidential result was announced overshadowed what had been a peaceful campaign by Zimbabwean standards and served to cast doubt among many observers on Mnangagwa's legitimacy.
Mnangagwa's vice-president is Constantino Chiwenga, the retired army chief who was the leader of the military takeover last November that removed Robert Mugabe from power after 37 years of autocratic rule and replaced him with Mnangagwa.
The MDC Alliance leader meanwhile alleges that Zanu-PF rigging lost him the presidential election - by inflating numbers in some areas, something the ruling party denies.
In a statement the Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC) recognised that the electoral results were consistent with those announced by outside electoral observers, while acknowledging that there were flaws and shortcomings in the process and calling for careful and transparent review of the polling data.
The ZCC urged security forces to act within their lawful mandate, political parties to be patient with the process of electoral review, and Zimbabweans of all parties to work together for reconciliation.
The ecumenical churches grouping asked for “inclusive dialogue and engagement” and said the complaints raised by the MDC Alliance needed to be addressed. There needed to be a “nation building dialogue process aimed at uniting the nation and creating an inclusive way forward.”
Catholic bishops in Zimbabwe have offered 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. “We equally blame the use of violent protests and destruction of property when citizens have grievances,” he added.
Bishop 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 [bishops’] conference will set up a mediation that will assist the church to help with the situation, should election results be contested,” said Bishop Nyandoro.