Catholic clerics urge voters to dump violent politicians in plea for credible polls
‘Do not be intimidated, coerced or manipulated to vote against your will’
HARARE – A Roman Catholic Bishops club coalescing under the umbrella Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference (ZCBC) has made an impassioned plea on Zimbabweans to reject politicians who incite violence ahead of the country’s crucial elections set for August 23.
In a candid statement, the clerics further urged arms of the state to exercise their authority cognisant of that any actions contrary to the dictates of their mandate could divide the nation.
ZCBC urged citizens to “take courage! stand up…and let your voices be heard through the ballot”.
“Your vote is your personal decision and an expression of your freedom,” said the clerics.
“Do not be intimidated, coerced or manipulated to vote against your will.
“Refuse to be used in violent attacks against your fellow brothers and sisters.
“Any party or politician that incites violence or persuades you to join in violent attacks, is not worthy of your vote.
“Give your vote to those who deserve it. Of the many choices that you are presented with, be discerning with the aid of the Holy Spirit and choose who you want.”
The clerics also warned politicians seeking political office against dividing the nation through inflammatory utterances.
“If you divide the citizens now, it will be difficult to govern a divided nation,” they said.
“As you go about your campaigns, persuade the citizens to vote for you, convince them of your ideas and aim for willing support.
“…Work to build and promote peace. Avoid the use of inflammatory, politically charged and derogatory language. These can easily fan hatred and incite violence.”
They added, “Let no blood be shed in your name and for your vote. Remember, ‘The bloodshed in the land cries out to God’ (Gen 4: 10).”
The Roman Catholic priests called on the media to remain impartial during the period while also urging the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to exercise its mandate in a way that would help deliver free and fair elections.
“Attend to the concerns that the citizens are raising and address them. Be people of absolute integrity and objectivity,” they said.
The preachers further appealed to the security sector to account for violence perpetrators during the traditionally volatile poll period.
“Let all the perpetrators of political violence and those who employ hate speech be held accountable for their actions and words,” said the clerics.
“Be present in political rallies and ensure that all parties are cleared and given equal opportunities to reach any part of the country in their campaigns.
“Let no citizen usurp your power by ‘manning entrances to some districts, thus denying parties’ access to the electorate.”
They also urged the courts to “serve the nation with wisdom, integrity and justice”.
The conclave of catholic leaders comprises Bishops from eight dioceses, including two archdioceses in Zimbabwe that is from Bulawayo, Harare, Gweru, Gokwe, Hwange, Mutare, Chinhoyi and Masvingo.
Before and after independence, Catholic preachers have steadfastly remained outspoken against state excesses and human rights abuses by persons in authority in a country where the church has generally taken a reserved stance towards abuse of authority.