“A time to reflect”
The Churches in Manicaland, on March 5, 2002, issued a pre-election statement, “A Time to Choose”, to the people of Zimbabwe. In this post election period we wish to issue a further statement to the people of our country.
In our pre-election statement we noted that restrictive and oppressive conditions made it “evident that the preparations for the elections were neither free nor fair for the voting public”.
We recognize that largely peaceful conditions prevailed in our province of Manicaland during the days of voting. However, we observed with serious concern that
- polling agents and members of support groups of the main opposition party were harassed, beaten and detained during the voting period;
- independent election observers, including church observers, were also detained during the voting period;
- some independent observers were abducted and their whereabouts subsequently unknown for several days;
- because of the absence of agents and observers, serious doubts have been raised regarding the security of the ballots both during and at the close of the voting period;
- a number of listed polling stations did not open during the polling days;
- a number of unlisted polling stations were opened without due notice being given to the voting public;
- one polling station was closed down by war veterans on the first day of voting.
As a result of these serious irregularities, a considerable number of voters in our province were unable to vote freely and the integrity of the voting process was greatly undermined.
If one views the pre-election period and the days of voting as part of a single overall process, it is clear that the Presidential Election of March 2002 was not conducted in a free and fair environment in the province of Manicaland. Reports from other provinces indicate that what happened in our province was repeated in other areas. From our experience on the ground, we cannot accept the legitimacy of the electoral process and therefore its outcome cannot be free and fair.
We are shocked by the conclusion of some African observers – particularly the ministerial observer team from the SADC region – in regard to the conduct of the election. The electoral process ignored the basic minimum electoral norms and standards compiled and accepted by the SADC countries.
We are further deeply concerned that electoral standards universally recognized and accepted are apparently seen as non-applicable in our African situation.
In the aftermath of the election we recognize that there is a mood of deep suspicion and mistrust between members of the two main political parties. We urge calm, restraint and wise counsel at this time. The restoration of trust and confidence is a process that requires courage and determination.
As Christian leaders we urge all followers of Christ to recognize that love of God and neighbour (Mark 12:28-31) is the mark of a true Christian. At an individual level, my neighbour includes my political rival and love means doing to him/her what I would wish him/her to do me (Mt. 7:12).
In a wider context, love means continually striving to realize the basic Christian principles of justice, mercy and compassion (Mt. 23:23) in the society in which we live. This will require rejecting the culture of lies and hypocrisy, intimidation and violence that has flourished in recent times and the promotion of honesty, truth and self-sacrifice within private and public institutions.
As Churches we are not aligned to any particular interest group or political party. We are strictly non-partisan in regard to party politics. Yet we cannot be non-partisan in regard to right and wrong, truth and falsehood, good and evil. Our enemy is the evil and falsehood that oppress and deny the innate dignity of each human being made in the image and likeness of God (Gen.1:27). An authentic Christian cannot be neutral in regard to good and evil. We pray that our vision may be embraced by all members of society so that our beloved country may experience greater freedom and the fullness of life and love.
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