Violence and conflicts have always been a cause for concern in Zimbabwe. The country’s pre-colonial era was characteristically violent; the colonial conquest was terrible and liberation struggle bloody.
In the post-colonial independent Zimbabwe, the cases of violence were supposed to be erstwhile. However, they were frequent with chapters like Gukurahundi, 2000 parliamentary elections, Operation Murambatsvina (2005) and the 2008 political violence standing out to global attention.
To this present day, scant efforts or headway have been made to address this recurrent problem and because the habit of violence is deeply etched, the recurrence and severity of political violence increase whenever there are major political events, particularly elections.
Everytime the nation draws towards an election more incidents of violent conduct, vitriolic expressive metaphors and intimidation from and by political forces become the order of the day.
In a healthy democratic climate, political contestations are critical and necessary, but they need to be free and fair, both substantively and procedurally. This is true for election contestations which should provide a passive means to the contestations for power and unambiguously make society more tranquil.
Those elected through this process ideally should exercise their decision-making powers, subject to the rule of law throughout the period they will be in power, and abide by the Constitution. This principle applies also to the rest of the citizens.
Alas, this has not been the case in Zimbabwe. Past political violence trends show records of reprisal violence and if 2008 serves as a prelude, these crises always bring the country to a stalemate. Despite SADC’s efforts to force the hostile parties into a coalition government called the Government of National Unity (GNU 2009-2013), ZANU PF and opposition parties remained strange bedfellows who took every convenience to slime each other.
Regrettably, while the country is stuck in these violent deliberations, the world moves on, one civil organisation noted.
The cost of violence is borne by the citizens and most critically the costs of violent acts are heavier for the economy and relationships.
The fury tempers and acts of vengeance often lead to cycles of violence making society less harmonious. Therefore violence of whatever form or magnitude must not be a signature of any society. It cannot be something to look back in history and be noble of, but to be ashamed, hence this has to be addressed.
Because violence has deep roots in our society, it requires a holistic and concerted approach to address it and three church unisons, Zimbabwe Divine Destiny (ZDD), Zimbabwe Churches Alliance (ZCA), Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC), put their heads together and came up with an ecumenical, apolitical initiative that focuses on capacitating grassroots churches to promote peace and cohesion.
The consortium, known as Churches Convergence on Peace (CCOP), was formed shortly before the just-ended hotly contested July 30 general elections and since then, it has been engrossed in bringing all the community stakeholders together making them sign peace pledges, educating them about peace and setting up local peace committees.
Addressing attendees at a local Salvation Army parish in the small farming community of Raffingora in Zvimba North, (about 45km north-east of Chinhoyi), ZDD Executive Director Bishop Ancelimo Magaya, appealed to the dwellers of the politically tense town to repent, embrace peace and desist from all forms of violence.
“If the secular justice system of this country fails to arbitrate you, God’s justice will catch up with you. We are bringing a message of deliverance in this land. Receive Jesus Christ and repent.”
Various people attended the Raffingora workshop, among them were headsmen, local pastors, vendors association representatives, ZANU PF supporters and an exceptional number of their party structures.
Crestfallenly, members of the opposition parties, chiefly the MDC party, were in no arena to be found, a case one resident cleric said owes to political security reasons.
In that light, Bishop Magaya prodded the gatherers to treat each other as neighbours and to be on the lookout for one another in the community, saying that the church is helping political actors to forestall God’s curse in their politicking.
“Look out for the weaker ones. We’re not helping any political party. We are helping all the people of Zimbabwe so that you do not attract God’s wrath when you carry out your campaigns. That’s why we are setting up this local peace committee,” he said.
Despite the area being under-developed, notwithstanding its proximity to the capital city, it has been reported numerous times that people in Raffingora speak in muted and hushed tones whenever a political subject is brought up for discussion. Howbeit, with the advent of CCOP, many natives are convinced that the clerical syndicate brought this mare’s nest to a margin.
In an interview on the sidelines of the workshop, Retired Major E. Machimbidzofa expressed his delight in CCOP, saying that the peace project is bound to succeed as God is in it.
“It (CCOP) has to succeed because God is in it and that it’s not a political program. Our wish is to see more churches coming on board. When they come together, dialogue is possible.”
Representing the vendors association, Ranganai Jengenye from Ward 16 said that CCOP eye-opened and challenged them to extend hands to everybody, even the politically left.
“CCOP is such a good organisation. It gave us a breakthrough. From today going on forward, we will coexist peacefully with others because we have learnt so much. We will take this home with us and educate others. We did not know of the things we now know and we will reach out and try to accommodate others, without bias or respect to political affiliation.”
Ms Mhere, a local teacher, delved on the need for peace if development is to be attained.
“Violence doesn’t build anything. If we have peace, our country will progress. If we have peace, we can even have time to develop our community as most of our time is lost while fighting. Peace has to start with me so that the next person can learn.”
Churches Convergence on Peace is still on the road, crusading for peace across the country, paying particular attention to politically rigid regions.
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