By Br. Alfonce Kugwa
The Catholic Church, represented by the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference President, Bishop Paul Horan, on Friday, 04 August 2023 participated in the Zimbabwe Heads of Christian Denominations (ZHOCD) initiated Peace Pledge signing ceremony by political parties. The twelve-point peace pledge signing included seven political parties that will take part in the August 2023 harmonized election.
The signing of the pleadge was a commitment by contesting political parties to maintain peace before, during and after elections. The peace pledge ceremony was organised by the Zimbabwe Heads of Christian Denominations (ZHOCD) and was held at a local hotel in Harare. The Zimbabwe Heads of Christian Denominations president, Bishop Never Muparutsa highlighted the need for Zimbabweans to pursue and uphold peace always.
“The Church in Zimbabwe is taking its prophetic mantle at this crucial moment in our country when we are all preparing for the elections. It is God’s mandate to us His children, that we must be ambassadors of peace as our Lord Jesus Christ is the Prince of Prince. The Church has the moral and spiritual mandate to convene this meeting today because we are commanded to … “seek peace and pursue it…”. The pursuit for peace is an unending endeavour because we continue to strive for peace, teaching out hearts and minds to “love our neighbours as we love ourselves”,” he said.
Political parties represented at the signing of the peace pledge include UZA, Citizens Coalition for Change CCC, ZANU PF, MDC-T, ZAPU, ZCPD and UANC.
The signing of the peace pledge by political parties was an effort by Christian denominations to sustain peace, before during and after the forthcoming elections scheduled for 23 August 2023.
By singing the peace pledge, political parties acknowledged that they will abide by the constitution and respect the supremacy of the Almighty God in promoting peace.
“We, the political parties of Zimbabwe, acknowledging the supremacy of the Almighty God, fully conscious of our constitutional obligations to ensure that our elections are peaceful, free, fair, and credible; Desirous to promote national cohesion, unity, peace and stability and recognizing our primary responsibility as leaders of political parties and of our candidates, members and supporters to fully respect the democratic right of every Zimbabwean to freely choose their leaders in a peaceful and informed manner,” read the introduction of the peace pledge. Political parties then pledged to:
- Promote and fully comply with the provisions of the Electoral Code of Conduct, for Political Parties and candidates and other Stakeholders contained in the Forth Schedule of the Electoral Act (Chapter 2:13);
- Individually and collectively promote a climate of peace and tolerance in all electoral processes and respect the rights of all political parties, candidates and stakeholders to freely assemble, canvas and campaign;
- Ensure that all citizens’ and voters’ rights to freedom of expression, association, personal choice and secrecy of the ballot are guaranteed;
- Refrain from inducing fear in citizens and voters through hate speech and publicly campaign against all forms of violence, intimidation, force, undue influence, reprisals and all other electoral malpractices;
- Publicly condemn and unreservedly dissociate from any action that may undermine the free and fair conduct of elections, including violence, coercion, intimidation, bribery and any other electoral malpractice.
- Condemn all individuals, organizations and associations that formally or informally conduct political activities which infringe on the commitments of the Electoral Code of Conduct for Political Parties and Candidates and other Stakeholders and threaten peaceful and credible elections;
- Take disciplinary measures in case of non-compliance with the Electoral Code of Conduct for Political Parties and candidates and stake holders by party candidates, members or supporters, work with institutions and processes prescribed in the Code of Conduct to resolve disputes through dialogue and collaborate with law enforcement agents and judicial authorities and prevent and penalise electoral offenders as provided for by the Electoral Act;
- Call for equitable access to the public and private media for all political parties;
- Accept the results of elections, where there is a dispute, challenge the results through the due process of the law;
- Respect the rights of all citizens and voters in particular women and children and take definitive stand against electoral violence, intimidation, and hate speech before, during and after elections;
- Give wide publicity to this pledge and the Code of Conduct and ensure that our candidates, members and supporters are familiar with the Code of Conduct and their obligation to comply with its terms
- Commit to work for restraint and peace, pre and post elections to ensure that there are no post-election recriminations, reprisals and retributions on voters based on their political choices.