By Fr. Limukani Ndlovu
Political conflict is an undesirable energy generated whenever political parties compete for incompatible objectives all for the sake of controlling public opinion. Without evading the present political reality in a theological and spiritual speculation which could serve as an escape from concrete historical responsibility (Africea Munus #17), the dog-eat-dog politics in Zimbabwe is a cause of concern as it continues to tear the nation apart. Political conflict does not bring anything good on the table but simply exacerbates public suffering and the perpetuation of hatred and generational poverty.
As part of her social teaching, the Church does not condone every possible form of social conflict. As such the recurring political conflicts cannot be glorified as heroic acts in a multi-party democratic society. As noted at the XIV Ordinary General Assembly on the Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and in the Contemporary World, dealing with delicacy and respect means attending to wounds and restoring hope and to rekindle trust in the other. Political tenderness serves to overcome conflicts and disagreements (# 88).
Politics should aim at the betterment of people across the political divide. It should leave citizens free to make choices of their destiny and leadership at any given time. In a country where election mood seems to be the order of the day, there is need to promote tolerance and political maturity among political parties and their constituencies. Political parties should invest energy in clarifying and publicizing their ideologies and policies. They should resolve problems rather than engaging in political conflicts, coercion, deception, extortion, intimidation and violence. Pope Francis warns, that inequality and lack of integral human development make peace impossible and that without equal opportunities, different forms of aggression and conflict will find a fertile terrain for growth and eventually explode (Fratteli Tutti #235).
Political maturity calls for authentic and genuine communication of ideas rather than mere politicking and sloganeering. Under the interest-based approach, it means putting a political party’s manifesto on the table and leave it to the electorate to make uninfluenced choices trusting and hoping that all that is promised will be delivered. In the spirit of synodality, political groupings should engage in mutual dialogue, especially where people have been engaged in long-lasting, deep-rooted conflicts. And so, they will pursue reconciliation and visible development.
Political conflict does not yield any positive results but takes people’s attention from more important issues. It undermines the dignity and respect of human life. It demoralizes and sharpens division leading to irreconcilable differences in communities. It leads to irresponsibility and ultimately a polarized people and yet as Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI puts it, reconciliation is a pre-political concept and a pre-political reality, and for this very reason it is of greatest importance for the task of politics itself (Africae Munus # 19).
It is incumbent upon every citizen to overcome political conflict which is a social ill and a scandal especially when Christians perpetrate it. Political freedoms and fundamental rights to associate have to be respected and guaranteed by the state. No one should be made to feel less entitled than others. No one should be reduced to second class citizen because of their political choices for every society benefits when each person and social group feels truly at home. No one should feel excluded on account of political differences. If only we could view our political opponents in the same way that we view our children or our spouse, mother or father!” (Fratteli Tutti # 230).