Catholic bishops in Zimbabwe have said President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his administration have given the nation new hope for the future.
In a statement yesterday on the forthcoming elections, the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference (ZCBC) said the dramatic events of November last year promised Zimbabweans a new chapter and was greeted by spontaneous rejoicing.
“In the six months since those events, we have seen many reasons for hope. The Government and its President have created new space for political activity, setting a new tone of freedom of speech, and promising free, fair, credible and undisputed elections under reformed electoral processes and institutions with access for international observers.
“Government Ministers now have targets to which they are accountable. The anti-corruption rhetoric is now accompanied by legal action against some high-profile figures, and Parliamentary Committees have begun to use their teeth,” said the ZCBC.
The bishops commended President Mnangagwa for energetically seeking foreign investment which is vital to revive the economy.
They said elections, as required by constitution, have been announced and as such it was important for the people of Zimbabwe to realise their significance at this point in the country’s history.
“For Zimbabweans, elections have been occasions either of great hope and excitement or of fear and anger ending in disillusionment. It’s true that elections are never, in themselves, the answers to problems. But, as part of a wider programme of transformation, they can be moments of national recommitment.
“We believe, we hope and we pray, that the coming elections of July 30, 2018, will be such a moment for us all. Genuinely free and fair elections will return us to constitutionality and the ‘will of the people’ will clarify what happened in November 2017,” said the bishops.
They said all Zimbabweans must therefore put any fear and disillusionment of previous elections behind them and prepare to participate in the electoral process that is central to the country’s democracy.
“Recent isolated events of violence and bomb attacks are regrettable, unacceptable and unfortunate for the country. As Catholic Bishops, we have set out before major national elections in the past the conditions for free and fair elections and offered our reflections on criteria for Christians and others to make the free choice that is guaranteed by our constitution,” said the bishops.
They acknowledged progress made in preparing the voters’ roll, particularly the use of new technology.
“Everything that makes for greater transparency will contribute to the credibility of the election and its result both inside and outside Zimbabwe.
“The process of casting and counting votes on the day of the election needs to be well-organised, safe and efficient, protecting both the confidentiality of the individual voter and open to the proper scrutiny of authorised observers,” said the bishops.
They urged all political parties to accept the results of free and fair elections.
“It is in the nature of free and fair elections that no individual or small group should be able to determine the results. It is certain, therefore, that some will be disappointed. The issues that face us are not simple, and we are divided in our opinions about the way forward.
“We must go into the process committed to accept the results of a free and fair vote by the people, whatever they are,” said the bishops.
They also urged Zimbabweans to be peaceful as they rally behind their political parties, saying the vision of the entire church was of a reconciled Zimbabwean society living in harmony, justice and peace in a democratic developmental state.