Church calls for cessation of MDC-A and ZANU PF hostilities

By Kudakwashe Matambo


While dialogue between major political parties in Zimbabwe seems a ‘mission impossible,’ the Church has revived its hope in a 'comprehensive national dialogue process’ to resolve the country’s socio-political and economic crisis. 


Following banned nationwide demonstrations organised by the opposition party, the MDC Alliance, and a subsequent violent crackdown on protestors in Harare, the church through a statement released by the Zimbabwe Heads of Christian Denomination (ZHOCD) on the 16th of August 2019, has reiterated its call for ‘an inclusive and comprehensive national dialogue process.’


“The nature and complexity of Zimbabwe’s historic present and future challenges can only be resolved through cooperation among all Zimbabweans which can be achieved through an inclusive and comprehensive national dialogue process,” reads the statement.


Though there seems very little ambition to join the Church’s national dialogue framework by some major political parties, the body remains hopeful that they can facilitate it and invite parties to such a process. 


“The Church would like to reiterate its call for (1) for the cessation of hostilities between the ruling party ZANU PF and the MDC (Alliance) which can be resolved through a deliberate process to commit to a formal process towards national convergence. The Church remains open to facilitating such a process.”


The ZHOCD is a body of Churches in which the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishop’s Conference (ZCBC) has membership together with the Zimbabwe Council of Churches.


 


In February 2019  the ZHOCD launched a National Dialogue Framework and invited major political players, businesses, churches, and civil society to participate among other stakeholders. 


With other parties in attendance, the dialogue was attended by the President of the MDC Alliance Nelson Chamisa and the Honourable Minister of Defense, Oppah Muchinguri Kashiri of ZANU Pf representing President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

 


Demonstrations banned


The country is still burning, there is tension everywhere, from the massive violent protests and shootings in August 2018 (soon after the disputed elections) to the January 2019 violent protests and crackdown, from austerity measures, continual sharp price hikes and hyperinflation, the country has been sitting on a time bomb which if unresolved, is a long term threat to its peace and stability. 


With such a scene in sight, the opposition movement planned demonstrations nationwide set to exert some pressure on President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his administration to improve the economic and social situation in the country. 


The night before August 16, the Zimbabwe Republic Police issued a prohibition order against the planned demonstrations warning partakers that they would face the ‘full wrath of the law.’


High Court Judge, Justice Joseph Musakwa, upheld the police ban, leading to the calling off of the demonstrations.


Demonstrations in Bulawayo, Gweru, Mutare and Masvingo, all major cities, have also been banned and police units are ready to ‘deal with protestors.’


Despite the last minute cancellations, several protestors had already gathered in the the Harare Central Business District waiting to take action. But they were forcefully dispersed by the police in what has been condemned as a ‘heavy handedness’ and ‘unnecessary use of excessive force’ on peaceful protestors. 


In its statement, the ZHOCD said, “the police involved used unnecessary excessive force to disperse the protestors who were largely peaceful. This heavy handedness creates an unnecessary rift between citizens and the security sector.... Unnecessary excessive force must be rejected and condemned.”


Several people were indiscriminately beaten up including journalists and innocent bystanders, some beaten up severely.


Hope in Dialogue


While dialogue between President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his main opponent Nelson Chamisa is not yet in sight, the Church is insists that dialogue remains key.  The Church is ‘happy’ that dialogue on some levels is already taking place.


“We need to be patient. What is important to us is that there is need to be ongoing dialogue in this kind of situation,” said Fr Frederick Chiromba , the ZCBC Secretary General.


“What the Churches are hoping to host is a multi-stakeholder dialogue, where there will be people from different sectors and we still hope that at least they will be accessible and we can continue,” said Fr Chiromba.


Commenting on the ongoing Political Actors Dialogue (POLAD) convened by President Mnangagwa, Fr Chiromba said “it is good that POLAD is already taking place, it shows that dialogue is possible among political parties and we hope eventually everyone comes on board, and there is no way other than dialogue.”


Advocate Nelson Chamisa and four other political players have distanced themselves from the POLAD framework. 


Fr Chiromba added that the end result of the multi-stakeholder dialogue must be to find solutions on how to ‘mend the social contract between citizens and the state.’


In a statement published on the 20th of August, the Delegation of the European Union and several other diplomatic missions to Zimbabwe also condemned ‘intimidation, harassment and physical attacks on human rights defenders’ calling for political reforms and an inclusive national dialogue'. 


“The Heads of Missions reiterate their calls for the implementation of the government’s political and economic reform agenda, underpinned by inclusive national dialogue and increased efforts to address the severe social situation.”


 

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