HARARE – The government must “curb the nurturing” of a culture of violence during election years by “bringing the perpetrators justice,” the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference has said.
The bishops spoke after a video circulated last week showing Zanu PF thugs attacking elderly Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) supporters in Murehwa, Mashonaland East.
Describing the attack as “barbaric” and “heinous”, the bishops urged all political parties to “desist from the use of violence and the use of young people to commit violent crimes.”
“Violence should not be employed to gain political mileage. Citizens of this nation have rights enshrined in the constitution. Among those rights is the freedom of choice, association and political rights,” the bishops said in a statement.
“We would urge all political parties to be responsible in their campaigns. Sell to the people your ideologies, and convince them with your arguments. As you do so, respect their choices. There is no citizen who should be intimidated or coerced, and worse still, be beaten to make a choice. That speaks against human dignity.”
The bishops said past elections in Zimbabwe “have seen a lot of violence” as they pleaded: “Let this election be different.”
Police on Thursday said they had arrested three people and are looking for 17 others over the Murehwa violence. Police face accusations by the opposition of Zanu PF bias in law enforcement, and failing to arrest Zanu PF perpetrators of violence.
CCC supporters were attacked in Matobo and Insiza during by-elections last year, and no arrests have been made.
“The people of this country dream and yearn for a free, credible and fair election,” the Catholic bishops said. “It’s not the casting of ballots that ascertains that, it’s the environment we create before, during and after elections. It is incumbent upon the government, political parties and all institutions that we create a level playing field. Equal opportunities should be given to all those who want to participate in this coming election. There should be no fear or favour.”
Reverend Paul Horan is the current president of the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference whose other members are Reverend Raymond Mupandasekwa, the Bishop of Gweru Diocese Reverend Rudolf Nyandoro, the Archbishop of Harare Robert Ndlovu, the Archbishop of Bulawayo Alex Thomas and the Bishop of Hwange Reverend Raphael Ncube.