WE Christians Together for Justice and Peace, an ecumenical group of church leaders from a wide cross section of denominations in Bulawayo, note with dismay the manner in which the recent by-elec
tion in Zengeza was conducted.
Our interest is not partisan and we hold no brief for either of the main competing parties, but we feel bound to express the gravest concern about the violence, intimidation and other gross irregularities which occurred both before and during the by-election. In particular we deplore the shooting incidents which left one person dead and others wounded.
We note the strong statements of condemnation issued by the United States government and the European Union. Closer to home we note the adverse comments issued by the Zimbabwe Election Support Network who were only able to deploy half the number of independent poll observers they wanted and yet still recorded irregularities and intimidation across the district.
We further note that Zimbabwe is a signatory to the 2001 Sadc protocol on electoral standards, yet almost every single one of those democratic norms were breached in a flagrant manner.
Here we need only mention the Sadc requirements that “eligible individuals should have the right to non-discriminatory voter registration and nomination procedures”, that they should have the right “to vote unimpeded and … in secrecy” and that “any measures such as political violence, kidnapping, murder, threats and sanctions …that prevent eligible individuals to register and to vote in secrecy should be perpetually outlawed by Sadc member states”.
Further standards protecting the sanctity of the freedom of association and expression, encouraging the development of a free and independent media and giving the opposition equal access to the state-owned media, were equally flouted. And once again the Sadc norm of a completely independent and impartial electoral commission was mocked by our own Electoral Supervisory Commission which has proved to be nothing more than an instrument of the ruling party.
Indeed in view of so flagrant and comprehensive a breach of the Sadc electoral standards we are surprised that no Sadc government has yet complained – or complained openly.
Our own sad conclusion is that the electoral environment in Zengeza was neither free nor fair, and therefore the declared result cannot be taken to represent the will of the electorate. So obviously flawed a process was bad for democracy. It further undermines the legitimacy of the present regime and sets a bad precedent not only for the forthcoming by-election in Lupane but for the parliamentary elections planned for March 2005.
As Christian leaders we seek the shalom (peace) of all God’s children in this land. We feel bound to speak boldly and clearly on this issue before it is too late. To flout the democratic norms and standards agreed by Sadc for the region is to show contempt for the will of the people and to continue on this path regardless is only to invite disaster for the nation. Faced with such a serious threat to the peace and well-being of our people we cannot remain silent.
We urgently plead with our present rulers to turn from the path of tyranny and to bring Zimbabwe’s electoral laws and practices into conformity with the Sadc standards which they have already approved.
We urge each and every one of our fellow citizens to make their contribution to lasting peace by dissociating themselves from every form of intolerance and violence and to promote a culture of mutual respect and non violence. If Zimbabwe is to be saved from untold further suffering there is not a moment to lose.
Fr Barnabas Nqindi,
Rev Graham Shaw,
Christians Together for
Justice and Peace.