Zimbabwe church body condemns post-election violence

Supporters of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change flee as soldiers prepare to disperse crowds outside the party's headquarters in Harare, Zimbabwe, August 1, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

The Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC) on Thursday condemned the shooting of unarmed protesters in Harare on Wednesday

The body also called for the immediate release of the presidential results‚ saying the army should be pulled off the streets to end the curfew imposed in major cities on Thursday. Indications are that presidential results may be released on Thursday.

The inter-denominational grouping‚ which held a prayer meeting with various pastors and church ministers‚ as well as other Christian organisations in the southern city of Masvingo on Thursday‚ also called for days of fasting and prayer for the country.

“We condemn in the strongest terms the shooting of unarmed civilians. People were just sending their message to the government. Whatever happened‚ no amount would justify killing people. The government should have looked at other ways to disperse people exercising their democratic right. The army used guns and live ammunition on defenseless citizens as if there was a war. That is not acceptable‚” said Temba Siwela‚ the ZCC provincial coordinator in Masvingo.

The churches called for an audience with the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC)‚ and urged it to immediately release the presidential results to avoid further anxiety amid a restless nation.

There is suspicion that further delays could be viewed as an attempt to cook the results.

“As the church‚ we want an audience with ZEC and tell it that the reason why people are protesting is because of the delays in announcing presidential results. They should expeditiously release results otherwise people are angered that maybe something is going on behind closed doors. People should not die in the hands of the army which should protect them‚” said Kurauone Mutimwi of the United Methodist Church in Zimbabwe. Its members signed a petition which they want to present to the ZEC.

Meanwhile‚ the African Christian Democratic Party on Thursday congratulated Zanu-PF for clinching a two-thirds majority in Parliament. It also condemned the violence that broke out on Wednesday. ACDP MP and member of the Parliamentary International Relations Committee Cheryllyn Dudley said on Thursday that the violence following the announcement of early results was very disappointing.

“Opposition election participation and results were impressive considering the constraints they have faced. Violent protests do not help Zimbabwe and only frustrates the progress they are making. Democracy requires a large degree of patience and maturity. It was our hope that Zimbabweans would rise above personal agendas for the sake of peace and nation building”‚ said Dudley.

“The ACDP calls on our neighbours to have cool heads and continue to be the example they have been – your patience and hard work in getting to this point‚ has been inspirational. Please don’t miss this opportunity to reap the benefits for all Zimbabweans.

“The ACDP joins those who are urging government to respond to protests with caution and resist the temptation of overreacting and inadvertently continuing a pattern of taking away people’s freedom to express themselves honestly.”

Amnesty International has called on the Zimbabwe government to investigate the army’s response to the violence‚ saying “militarisation” in the election aftermath was “muzzling freedom of expression‚ association and assembly”.