Catholic Bishops in Zimbabwe Say Country Needs to Exorcise Negative Sentiment Ahead of July 30 Election

People celebrate with the national flag during the Nov. 24, 2017, swearing-in ceremony of Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa in Harare. (CNS/EPA/aaron Ufumeli)
People celebrate with the national flag during the Nov. 24, 2017, swearing-in ceremony of Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa in Harare. (CNS/EPA/aaron Ufumeli)

Catholic bishops and other church leaders in Zimbabwe want the country’s polls on July 30 to be peaceful and credible as opposition parties battle to force the electoral body to institute reforms while observers call for due procedure to be followed to avoid a disputed election.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa declared July 30 as the date to choose a new leader, house of assembly and local government representatives. The Zimbabwean election comes about six months after the takeover of power by the military and the removal of former leader, Robert Mugabe, under a peaceful settlement brokered by Jesuit Fr. Fidelis Mukonori.

Now Catholic bishops have proffered their voice ahead of a key election that Zimbabwe desperately needs to exorcise negative sentiment around the ouster of Mugabe and elevation of Mnangagwa in November 2017. A credible election will also help Zimbabwe move forward.

“For Zimbabweans, elections have been occasions either of great hope and excitement or of fear and anger ending in disillusionment,” the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference said in a pastoral letter a few weeks before the July 30 election. “It is true that elections are never, in themselves, the answers to problems. But, as part of a wider program of transformation, they can be moments of national recommitment,” it continued.

Other Zimbabwean church leaders have also said they are praying for the poll to pass without incident. Previous elections in the country have often turned violent, even bloody, and the involvement of the military in last November’s election has raised concern over the involvement of the armed forces in politics in the country.

The Zimbabwean Catholic bishops have also expressed concern over this, saying “the appearance of armed men and vehicles on our streets was alarming” although “the transition to a civilian administration was managed effectively” by the army.

The involvement of the military, especially ahead of the July 30 election is one of the contested issues by the opposition in Zimbabwe, which says soldiers have been deployed to intimidate voters in rural areas to cast their ballots in favor of the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (Zanu PF) party.

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SOURCE: Tawanda Karombo 
National Catholic Reporter