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Let 2022 By-Elections Reflect Nation “united in diversity”: Christian Leaders in Zimbabwe

Logos of the members of Zimbabwe Heads of Christian Denominations (ZHOCD) Credit: ZHOCD/Facebook

Christian Leaders in Zimbabwe under the auspices of Zimbabwe Heads of Christian Denominations (ZHOCD) are calling on the people of God in the Southern African nation to pray for the forthcoming by-elections to reflect a country “united in diversity.”

In a Wednesday, February 9 statement, ZHOCD officials express optimism that the by-elections scheduled for March 26 “will positively inform the broader election processes that are to happen in the 2023 harmonized elections.”

“We pray that the by-elections will be a reflection of the Nation God has envisioned for us, one that is united in diversity,” the officials say in the statement shared with ACI Africa.

The Christian leaders who include members of the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference (ZCBC) promise to engage in dialogue to ensure that issues emanating from the by-elections are addressed.

“As the Church, we will continue to engage in dialogue processes that will ensure that emerging issues towards the process of by-elections are comprehensively addressed, '' ZHOCD officials say in the statement.

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The leaders underscore the need for prayers in any election before, during and after the exercise, saying that prayer signifies that despite elections being a human activity, “it is God who knows people’s hearts and can therefore direct the voters.”

There are 133 by-elections due for National Assembly and local authority seats in Zimbabwe, most of which fell vacant following the recall of Members of Parliament and Councilors by the opposition MDC-T party.

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced March 26 as the date for the by-elections to fill vacant seats in the National Assembly and various local authorities across the country.

In 2020, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) had suspended the holding of by-elections in line with government COVID-19 regulations, banning huge gatherings to curb the spread of the pandemic.

According to the ZHOCD officials, the seats subject to by-elections became vacant following the recall of some parliamentarians and local authority representatives whilst some were due to natural causes.

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The officials further acknowledge the nomination process that was done January 26 and say that it was done well as the campaigning by candidates is already in the process.

“We are aware that the nomination process for the by-elections was fulfilled on the 26th of January 2022 in line with the dictates of the electoral laws in Zimbabwe,” the officials say, and add, “The process went on well and campaigning by candidates has already started.”

The Christian leaders express their understanding of elections being a constitutional process, which they say is to ensure that the power of the electorate in choosing their parliamentary or local authority representatives remains with them.

In their February 9 statement, the Christian leaders say they find it encouraging that citizens from across the political divide were making preparations to participate in the by-election exercise.

They express optimism that the by-elections, just like other elections in the country, will be guided by the “secrecy of the ballot” and the “principle of non-discrimination” because “voters must be allowed to cast their ballot without regard to their race, sex, political allegiance, religion, national origin, language or any other basis.”

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ZHOCD officials also advocate for “the promotion of peace by all stakeholders” including faith-based leaders and citizens, which they say should be prioritized.

They further call for professional and non-Partisan conduct of security forces in the process of discharging their constitutional duties within the context of elections.

They as well advocate for the country’s constitution and Electoral Act to remain the key guiding documents for electoral processes.

Other guidelines towards the by elections include, “Inclusive and sustained electoral dialogue that provides accompaniment to the by elections so that emerging and existing issues are addressed in a peaceful manner.”

The Christian leaders in Zimbabwe further want “the election management body and other relevant institutions to provide timely, accurate and complete information to the electorate to enable them to make informed decisions throughout the election period.”

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