Calls by the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference (ZCBC) for peace ahead of the forthcoming elections are a breath of fresh air.
This also comes as Harare Catholic Archbishop Robert Ndlovu on Sunday urged church members to shun political violence, saying no politician was worth fighting or dying for.
“We are now going for elections and I know some of you (Catholics) are active in politics and are even taking part in political violence that has been bedevilling the country all the time we have elections,” Ndlovu said.
“I encourage you to exercise your rights to vote, but after casting your vote, I would urge you to go back straight home, enjoy sadza with your family and refrain from partaking in political violence.”
As the bishops rightly put it in their pastoral letter, individuals should be allowed to freely attend rallies or meetings without coercion. We hope the country’s politicians are listening to the voices of reason. There is no reason why thousands of ordinary citizens should suffer the same violence that engulfed the nation during the 2008 presidential runoff just because some politician wants to be voted into office.
What politicians must do is to advertise their policies to the voting public so they can make their own choices.
We also agree with the ZCBC that a code of conduct guiding political parties before and after elections should be put in place to ensure that the political playing field is level. There should be political will among politicians to end violence by ensuring that perpetrators face the full wrath of the law. Engaging in violent activities with impunity has become a breeding ground for more violence.
The much-anticipated harmonised polls expected later this year have caused much anxiety among thousands of people who have been victims of violence in the last plebiscites. It is therefore the duty of every individual to practise love and peace and not beat the living daylights out of each other because of political differences.
As the country gravitates towards the plebiscite, there is need to put an end to the ills that have become associated with elections such as political intolerance, violence and impunity. The country should open a new chapter in a democratic dispensation.
Free and fair elections should be possible with a new constitution and the necessary reforms in place. Zimbabwe belongs to all of us, and the reason why thousands perished in the 1970s war of liberation was to ensure people would be able to freely exercise their democratic right including choosing who should lead them.
If people are forced through violence to subscribe to certain political views, how then will modern-day Zimbabwe differ from colonial Zimbabwe?
Zimbabweans have the right to peace because that is what they fought for. This message should ring loud and clear in the nation’s hearts and minds as we edge towards this make-or-break poll.