Magunje- a miniature township in Hurungwe Mashonaland West, whose record as a hotbed of political violence is well treasured since the beginning of the Millenium, has eventually contemplated on upholding peace and have acted accordingly ahead of 2018 harmonised general elections.
A fervid and traditional ZANU PF stronghold, Magunje, which has earthed myriad dead bodies owing to suspected political motives, on Friday saw a recherché paradigm shift as chiefs, village heads and members of the civil society and related organisations responded positively to the call and assurance of peace by the Churches.
The aforementioned stakeholders of peace assembled at St Joan of Arc Roman Catholic Church at an event dubbed Runyararo/Ukhuthula – Peace Pledge Signing Ceremony and took oaths and subsequently added their signatories to a peace pledge document formulated by a syndicate of church boards identified as the Churches Convergence on Peace (CCOP).
An apolitical initiative with the comprehensive aim of contributing to a violence-free atmosphere for sustainable peace in the pre-and post-electoral context, CCOP is a brainchild of the Zimbabwe Divine Destiny (ZDD) (under Bishop Ancelimo Magaya), Zimbabwe Churches Alliance (ZCA), Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC) and the Danish Church Aid.
The Magunje edition is one in a streak of various other peace crusades that are happening across the country, principally in zones where political turbulence has flared.
Among those who attended the Peace Pledge Signing Ceremony were delegates from war veterans and collaborators, victims of political violence, the army, chiefs and village heads, policemen, the first Estate (pastors), ZANU PF, MDC-Alliance, Zimbabwe Partnership for Prosperity (ZIPP), Centre for Community Development (CCDZ), CCJP, ZimRights, Youth Organisations and the newly-founded Chakanyuka Foundation.
Officiating the ceremony, peace and justice advocate Bishop Ancilimo Magaya urged gatherers to uphold peace.
‘Everyone must be responsible to make this election a peaceful one,’ he said.
To politicians, the founder of Grace Ablaze Ministries International (GAMI) quizzed,
‘If you want us to vote for you, do you beat us?’
The bishop, in his usual outspoken style, upbraided the church for not reprimanding acts of injustice and political misconducts which he said has been happening under their watches.
“Churches saw violence happening, and they did not condemn it… The work of Christian ministers is not to officiate burials only but to also question the predicament that killing people.”
He said that the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace in Zimbabwe (CCJPZ) historically could speak out even in the colonial era until their publication was wrecked.
‘Don’t give holy communion to murderers,’ bishop Magaya continued to tell the church leaders.
He said that churches should repent for their tacit culture, so should the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) for carrying out politically motivated operations and hiding acts of violence.
Chiefs and headsmen, likewise, should atone for having been institutional mechanisms controlled by the powers that be to repress their subjects.
Elsewhere in his key address, the bishop cited Proverbs 29vrs 2 which says, ‘When the righteous thrive, the people rejoice; when the wicked rule, the people groan.’
A prophet of social justice in the biblical Amosic fashion, Mr Magaya noted with extreme concern that the culture of violence is not only confined to Zimbabwe but is rampant in Africa. Recently, he along with his wife Pastor Daphene suffered a virtual dire violent armed-robbery in South Africa in which they were mugged for money, gadgets and travel documents.
The prelate went further to censure political parties over the use of derogatory slogans, which he said provoke political violence.
He said Zanu PF and the opposition MDC-Alliance have slogans that have tinges of violence. He added that although leaders of these political blocs have publicly denounced political violence, their party systems and structures appear to celebrate violence.
Taking the bellow for the Chiefs who could not make it to the ceremony, headman Majijiwa urged gatherers to cherish peace and respect each.
‘Peace is not something someone can buy that we can say is expensive. Peace lives in the heart. If you know that wronging someone is wickedness, you’ve made peace,’ he said.
Majijiwa admitted that as community heads, politicians have used them in the past because they did not know. Now that CCOP has come to their metropolis, recalling them of their traditional duty as the guardian of their subjects, they will not subject themselves as structures of organised repression to their subjects.
“I want to thank (CCOP) for this education of peace. Only had we known of this in the past. We did things in the past, they used us because we did not know. Starting today, if you send me to do something (terrible), I will disagree with you or run, even if you come bearing gifts,” the headman said.
He applauded CCOP for the peace outreach and said they would love to have more of these enlightening meetings with the church and civil society.
Speaking on behalf of village heads, head Kakombe Mukuta said they welcome Bishop Magaya and their CCOP initiative and, urged people to pray for peace.
“If this teaching had reached us beforehand, I think the upcoming election would’ve gone well. The delay in reaching us, however, is not the reason people should have mistreated one another. We believe this is God’s plan.”
He appealed to attendees to pray for a godly intervention as the election approaches.
“Let’s pray that the Holy Spirit descend on Zimbabwe. God should interfere. The children of Israel suffered for a long time in Egypt, but a shepherd rescued them,” Mukuta concluded.
The delighted headsmen also asked where CCOP was over the years.
Bishop Magaya responded that they have been around and that the most marvellous development is that they have come to Mashonaland West. He promised to continue doing so even in the election aftermath.
Centre for Community Development (CCDZ) representative also applauded CCOP for furthering the same purpose they are building up as a community-based organisation.
“Thank you Bishop for promoting the same theme we are also walking with. That should be encouraged,” said the rep.
He called upon people to evaluate their leaders by their campaigns as it reflects their nature.
“If you see even a councillor coming to you, promoting violence as they campaign, just know that they are not a good leader material. A good leader promotes peace development. That is the leader we should welcome.”
One of the Mashonaland West Peace Signing Ceremony organisers and a Mangunje-based clergy, Pastor Lloyd Mapfumo, told this writer in a side interview that he was overwhelmed with the coming of CCOP into their town which has a well-detailed history of being a political cradle.
Rev Mapfumo, a victim and survivor of the 2008 political bedevilment at the grips of ZANU PF and intelligence operatives, said;
“I’m glad about the coming of CCOP as we can drive away fear among the people and fear among pastors. Some pastors we have at this ceremony are afraid as sometimes being affiliated with ZDD or other Christian-based organisation will earn you an opposition tag. So we are saying may God help us that we may live together peacefully.”
The minister also disclosed that although distinct from 2008, there are still ex-servicemen and members of the army who are still victimising people in Magunje.
As a side note, he registers with deep concernment how the township along with its engulfing villages are still weak-kneed by the early July impenetrable events in which sporadic, unaccounted for gunshots were heard at an area around a local booster.
Another cleric from the neighbourly Zvimba parish, Pastor Tafirenyika, commended Bishop Magaya and CCOP for coming together to preach peace and denounce violence conduct.
“It (CCOP) is a great activity because as the church we house many voters, yet we happen to be victimised at the same time. We make peace possible. So, I see it as a noble idea, churches coming together denouncing violence and lawless victimisation,’ the Family of God minister said.
Diverse political parties, community-based and humanitarian organisations also took turns in preaching peace and heaping praise on Bishop Magaya and the rest of the CCOP team.
Among those who went on record were interim local ZANU PF councillor Farai Murengwa, MDC-Alliance rep Maria Mhukuta, Zimbabwe Partnership for Prosperity (Zipp) votary Edmore Chinanzvavana, Pauline Mandaza from a local based disabled organisation, ZRP and Magunje Community Youth leader.
On record, all the community stakeholders pledged to uphold peace and signed the peace covenant.