AFRICA/ZIMBABWE - Bishops on post-election climate: “Promoting peace and reducing tensions have been lost”

Thursday, 23 November 2023 elections   bishops   violence  

Harare (Agenzia Fides) - "Depriving people of their voice is a form of violence that should be condemned by all people of integrity, by all loving and peaceful citizens", emphasize the Bishops of Zimbabwe in their pastoral letter for Advent, in which they express their assessments of the presidential election and the political and administrative elections of August 23 (see Fides, 17/8/2023) extended to August 24th (see Fides, 24/8/2023).
Last August's election confirmed outgoing President Emmerson Mnangagwa in office, with the opposition challenging his victory and denouncing "blatant and gigantic electoral fraud" (see Fides, 29/8/2023). In its report published on November 17, the European Union Election Observation Mission (EuEom) in Zimbabwe states that "the process as a whole limited fundamental rights and lacked a level playing field, which was exacerbated by intimidation. In the post-election period, the Eu Eom observed a climate of retaliation". The climate of mistrust, retaliation and fear is also highlighted in the pastoral letter published on November 21st. "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 dismissals of elected representatives, senators and council members, the nation has been thrust into a new form of violence: legitimately elected people can be arbitrarily dismissed. It appears that the voices of the people who voted are simply being ignored as if they were insignificant," say the bishops, referring to the dismissal of 33 opposition MPs. The opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) lost 33 new parliamentary seats in this way, in two phases: first 15 MPs and then 18 were removed from their seats after false claims in Parliament that the MPs were leaving the party which resulted in the loss of their seats. "Have these elected representatives not received a mandate from 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", the pastoral letter reads. A CCC member, Tapfumanei Masaya, was murdered last November 11th. Two days earlier, he had been attending a political rally for a CCC candidate in Mabvuku, a suburb of Harare, when he and another opposition figure, Jeffrey Kalosi, were forced into a vehicle. According to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the two men were tortured. Kalosi was released in the area where Masaya's body was found. "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?" the Bishops reply. Partial elections for the renewal of parliament will take place in Zimbabwe next December 9th. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 23/11/2023)