ZIMBABWE CATHOLIC BISHOPS’ CONFERENCE
16 December 2007
‘I came so that they may have life and have it to the full.'
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ. Peace be with you.
In August 2004 we published a pastoral letter in which we shared with you some Christian insights with regard to a credible electoral process for a responsible and accountable leadership. We want in the current pastoral letter to continue in the same vein to offer guidance to all peace loving Zimbabweans as we come towards combined elections in 2008. The Church's obligation to teach about moral values that should shape our lives, including our public lives, is central to its mission.
Past elections have been marred by controversy and violence. This time, we urge Government and all the contesting parties,to create a social,political and economic climate that enhances moral integrity. We urge those responsible for organizing the elections to establish a credible electoral process, whose outcome will be free and fair and with local and international recognition. The Church looks beyond political parties and derives its ethos from the eternal Kingdom of God, a kingdom of love, truth, justice, freedom and peace. The Church therefore, aims to build the foundations here on earth of that Eternal Kingdom.
Individual Christians can make their own decisions as to which party comes closest to the Christian ethos. They have a right to join any party of their choice. Christians should become more involved in political life, running for office, working within political parties and communicating concerns to the elected officials. Voting should be guided more by one's moral convictions than by one's attachment to a political party or interest group. Christian voters should use the Christian Social Teaching to examine the views of the candidates on pertinent issues and should consider the candidates' integrity and their pastor potential performance.
The Church respects each individual decision and this reality is evident in all our congregations composed of members belonging to all existing parties. However, within the party of their choice, Christians must act as salt, leaven and light. There must be "a firm commitment to justice and solidarity by each member of the people of God. Catholic professionals and teachers, businessmen and civil servants, lawyers and politicians are especially expected to bear witness to goodness, truth, justice and love of God in their daily lives" (Church in Africa, Nos. 105 and 108). We recognize that the responsibility to make choices in political life rests with each individual in light of a properly formed conscience, and that participation goes well beyond casting a vote in a particular election.
2. ELECTORAL SYSTEM
In 'The Zimbabwe We Want' the Ecumenical Church Bodies stated that the electoral system is one of the pillars of the parliamentary democratic representative process. Elections and their management have become one of the key criteria for evaluating the extent to which a country has adopted the ethos and practice of democracy.
2.1 Electoral Process and Institutions
The electoral process provides an opportunity for the choice and installation of governments and the transfer of power in peaceful circumstances. In other words an electoral system is the vehicle that gives expression to the will of the people.
One of the most important electoral bodies is the Electoral Commission. It is vital that the Electoral Commission inspires confidence and protects the integrity of the process in the delivery of free and fair elections. The body must be impartial and not amenable to political or other pressure. Such a body must be the main custodian of the electoral process-the election campaign, access to media and media coverage.
Concerning the media we want to reiterate what we said in our August 2004 Pastoral Letter that both State and Independent media should fulfill their educative and informative roles in society. Press freedom is to be safeguarded in the interest of promoting the common good and promoting the human rights enshrined in the national constitution. The media should serve all sections of the society. All parties should have access to media coverage to explain their programmes.
We are concerned about the environment and atmosphere that prevails before, during and after elections. We therefore wish to recapitulate some of the important points from the 2004 pastoral letter, as later summarized by our Justice and Peace Commission for easier understanding, in Responsible and Accountable Leadership.
2.2 Before Elections
The environment before elections is critical and must be conducive to free and fair elections. People should be afforded ample time to register as voters at their own pace. There should be clearly designated registration offices, where it is easy for all to register. Long queues discourage some people from registering.
Political parties should not be provocative in their campaigns. All campaigns, therefore, should be peaceful and respectful of other parties, while challenging their stand and. opinions on various issues. All Political parties should be free to campaign and have equal access to State resources in the form of media coverage, police protection, financial subsidies, etc. Civil servants, in particular, are not party cadres and must render the all important and impartial civil service throughout the elections to ensure free and fair elections.
People should be free to attend party meetings of their choice. To promote informed choices, all those organizations concerned with civic education should team up to educate people about elections and encourage openminded citizens. It is healthy for citizens to hold different political opinions and engage in rational disputation, while all the time respecting each other's dignity. Human dignity has its rooting in the dignity of God and must not be violated. We therefore call for tolerance among members of different political persuasions.
2.3 During Elections
As your Shepherds, we encourage you to vote in an atmosphere of peace. To neglect your duty to vote is to be irresponsible for you leave others to decide your future for you. Remember, it is good people who allow bad governments to get into power. Participation in political life in the light of fundamental moral principles is an essential duty of every Christian and all people of good will.
We appeal to the relevant authorities to make sure the electoral process is efficient and user friendly. Long queues discourage potential voters from voting. Monitors and observers help to create a free, fair and peaceful atmosphere. Zimbabwe should be proud to invite both local and international observers to witness to democracy in action.
2.4 After Elections
Be magnanimous in victory and gracious in defeat. Losing candidates and parties in a free and fair election do not find it difficult to accept defeat. Good losers are also peacemakers. Good losers also command respect. Losing parties become the opposition which can make use of their vote in Parliament to challenge government policies and performance through constructive criticism.Both opposition and government should have one common aim, which is the realization of the common good of the society.
All citizens and various institutions and organizations should, in the spirit of social solidarity help government and opposition patties by making their own contributions in national reconciliation and restoration. After elections, all citizens should join forces to build the Zimbabwe we all want. We appeal to all citizens to adopt a spirit of oneness and solidarity. Lack of solidarity increases the gap between the rich and the poor in the society. Pope John Paul IT taught that, "Solidarity helps to see the "other.." not as some kind of instrument., to be exploited.... and then discarded, but as our neighbour to be made a sharer with ourselves in the banquet of life to which all are equally invited by God" (Solicitudo Rei Socialis,39).
We your Bishops, have written this letter to you when our country is preparing for elections in 2008. As a nation we all belong to one family of God, who loves and cares for each one of us. Let us turn to him in fervent prayer as we prepare for the forthcoming elections and rebuild our nation. The psalmist reminds us: "If the Lord does not build the house in vain do its builders labour; If the Lord does not watch over the city in vain does the watchman keep vigil" (Ps 127,1).
Let us use this time to pray for our nation privately and in our congregations. In our Parish Churches we share the story of world conversion and world unity, of persecution and new life, of triumphs and defeats, of saints and sinners. It is in our Parish Churches too that God's people have been baptized with parental hopes and joys, here they have been married with hopes for their own family and here, they have been buried with the promise of eternal peace. Let us converge at our Parish Churches in prayer as we prepare for the forthcoming elections. May the leaders we choose lead us in Godly ways. Jesus said, "I came so that they may have life and have it to the full" (In.lO: 10), and that includes Zimbabwe. As we choose our leaders, and they in turn govern us and engage the world, may the exercise constitute a win for Jesus, leading to love not hatred, life not death, justice not oppression, peace not violence, and prosperity not poverty. This is voting wisely that, like the biblical three wise men, we always choose, in each election, those leaders who enjoy God's blessing and will lead us in the direction that takes us to Jesus and to national wellbeing. Only when power stands under God's blessing can it be trusted.
We, therefore, invite all Christians to pray for our leaders and would be leaders in all sections of our society so that they may adopt Christlike leadership that is God fearing and respects human dignity. Every situation is an opportunity to observe and realize the intention of the Lord Jesus Christ when he says, "You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart and all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself, " (Mt.22:3739).
May the electoral process of 2008 bring us a national rebirth and help us to grow in the love of God and neighbour, as Zimbabwe regains its rightful place among the nations of the world.
Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year. God Bless You All.
+Robert C. Ndlovu, Archbishop of Harare (ZCBC President) +Angel Floro, Bishop of Gokwe (ZCBC Vice President) +Alexio Churu Muchabaiwa, Bishop of Mutare (ZCBC Secretary/Treasurer) +Michael D. Bhasera, Bishop of Masvingo +Martin Munyanyi, Bishop of Gweru +Dieter B. Scholz SJ, Bishop of Chinhoyi +Albert Serrano, Bishop of Hwange +Patrick M. Mutume, Auxiliary Bishop of Mutare Very Rev. Monsignor Martin Schupp, Apostolic Administrator of Bulawayo
"Catholic professionals and teachers, businessmen and civil servants, lawyers and politicians are especially expected to bear witness to goodness, truth, justice and love of God in their daily lives."
(Church in Africa, Nos. 105 and 108).
Published by: The Social Communications Department Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops' Conference Africa Synod House, '29-31 Selous Avenue
r.o. Box CY 2220 Causeway, 'Harare, Zimbabwe