By Byron Mutingwende
Conflicts are often escalated in the period immediately prior, during and after elections but the church should preach peace, Archbishop Lameck Chitope of the Apostolic Christian Council of Zimbabwe (ACCZ) has said.
Chitope’s sentiments followed the violence, harassment and hate language against MDC-T Deputy President Dr. Thokozani Khupe and Secretary General, Douglas Mwonzora that occurred at the burial of former Prime Minister, Morgan Tsvangirai in Buhera recently.
“As ACCZ, we run campaigns on conflict management and financial jurisprudence. While the primary focus is on the leadership of the church, we want the message of peace and conflict resolution to cascade to all members of the church.
“Conflicts are not only confined to non-believers since they arise from our everyday interactions in various spheres of the society. Indigenous churches like most of the apostolic sects allow their members to freely participate in any political groupings of their choice. Church members should guard against participating in activities that fuel violence like what was witnessed at the burial of former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai,” Chitope said.
The Archbishop made it clear that there was no bad blood between him and the ACCZ President, Archbishop Johannes Ndanga. Chitope expressed his dismay at what he termed as “interference from political party leaders” whereby certain politicians try to infiltrate the church and divide members on partisan lines.
“It is not like the church leadership is the one that approaches politicians to participate in politics. Last year, the ACCZ received letters from former ZANU (PF) Harare Province Chairman Shadreck Mashayamombe to participate at a rally chaired by former First Lady Grace Mugabe. As the church we obliged to participate because we respect political leadership.
“Afterwards, there was an attempt to divide ACCZ when the former minister of culture, Makhosini Hlongwane invited some members of the ACCZ to a meeting in Harare which tended to divide the church in terms of whom to follow between the former President and some leaders within the new political dispensation. My advice to the politicians is not to divide the church but church members should preach unity instead of promoting hate speech and conflict. We may have differences on some actions that may be taken by my superior Archbishop Ndanga but we remain united and as one ACCZ,” Chitope said.
Meanwhile, civil society organisations have also added their voice on the need to promote peace and shun violence.
“Such behaviour by the rowdy youths at the burial in Buhera of the democratic icon, human rights champion and founder of the democracy movement, Tsvangirai, is at odds with his towering legacy. ZimRights urges the opposition party MDC-T to amicably resolve its intra-party issues peacefully and amicably without resorting to violent and hateful conduct, but following Tsvangirai’s doctrine of non-violence and peace.
“In the same vein, ZimRights condemns in the strongest terms the violent disruption of a public consultative meeting of the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) in Bulawayo by suspected youths of the Mthwakhazi Liberation Front,” the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association has said.
The Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) condemned all forms of violence as the country edges closer to elections. It urged political party leaders to demonstrate political tolerance and reign in supporters who perpetrate violence in their names and called for peaceful resolutions of power contestations.