Catholic Bishops in Zimbabwe condemn post election violence – Catholic Church News

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By Br. Alfonce Kugwa

The Catholic Bishops in Zimbabwe have published a pastoral letter cautioning about the post election violence after the August 2023 harmonized elections. The elections that were held on 23 and 24 August 2023 have been described by many observers as shambolic and have given birth to post election politically motivated violence, hatred and suspicion in communities.

In their Pastoral Statement for Advent, the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference, castigated those responsible for causing violence and those following up people for having voted “wrongly”.

“We had hoped that as a nation we had seen the light and we were beginning to appreciate each other as citizens with divergent views and people of different persuasions, men and women who can rise above their differences. Sadly, as reported by the different election observers, our elections left a lot to be desired. They were characterized by a new form of violence: refusal to let the nation’s voices be heard through the ballot. That act of robbing people of their voices is a form of violence that should be condemned by all people of integrity, by all loving and peaceful citizens,” the bishops said in their Pastoral Letter.

The bishops expressed concern over the disrespect of human rights in the country and the unwarranted recalls of elected Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) members, from the House of Assembly, Councilors and those from the Senate, saying the act shows disregard of the electorate.

They said the disrespect for people shown by political leaders was tantamount to reversing the feat that the government had made and would derail the hoped for vision 2030. According to the bishops, people are critical in an election process, in the wellbeing of the nation and their voices should be respected at all times. By not listening and abiding to the voice of the people, the political leaders would be fanning tensions which is not health for the country.

“In the post-election period most of the gains that we had made; the promotion of peace, diffusing the tensions between various political players and their supporters were lost. There were retributions targeting those who were perceived to have voted wrongly, whatever that means! With the recent political recalls of the elected members of parliament, senators and councilors, the nation has been thrust into a new form of violence: people rightfully elected, can wantonly be recalled. It would seem the voices of the people who voted can easily be ignored, as if they are insignificant. Were those elected not given the mandate by the people? What happens when the people’s voices are silenced by the masters of political expediency?  One thing for certain is that people feel they are not respected and listened to. This breeds tensions and many who have no ways of diffusing them bottle them up. This is not healthy for people and the society. If it is true that, ‘an injury to one of us is an injury to all of us,’ then we are all living in a wounded society,” read the letter.

The Conference of Bishops further noted that the political situation coupled with recalls, had unearthed serious challenges for the country.

“What is worse is what these recalls have unearthed. Apart from holding all of us in the dreaded perpetual election mode, they have given birth to violence. Even those who, for a short while, had shunned violence, have fallen back on their default position of violent campaigns. People are being abducted, brutalized and left for dead. Recently, a life was lost because of politics. What is the objective of this violence? Is it to terrorize people into voting for a particular candidate or not to vote at all?,” said the bishops in a letter dated 21 November 2023.

In the same letter, the Catholic Bishops emphasized the need for peace which they said is the foundation of economic development.

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