Zimbabwe's churches urge lifting of international sanctions

The Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC) has urged the lifting of 'punitive' sanctions on Zimbabwe following last week's disputed election, which saw incumbent president Emmerson Mnangagwa returned with a decisive majority.

In a 'pastoral statement', the ZCC said: 'We plead with the international community not continue the isolation of Zimbabwe on the basis of shortcomings of this election. You are fully aware that the punitive measures on the new government will not affect those in leadership but the ordinary Zimbabweans. We believe that it is in the opportunities for Zimbabweans' access to health care, education and basic social services that the nation will flourish and grow a robust democracy.'

ReutersZimbabwe's President Emmerson Mnangagwa looks on as he gives a media conference at the State House in Harare, August 3, 2018.

The statement acknowledged the perception that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), which pronounced the elections broadly free and fair, was 'not fully independent' and that 'the electoral playing field remains uneven whilst favouring incumbents'.

However, it backed the ZEC's 'technical conclusions' and urged the release of supporting data.

It also reflected on the divisions that marked the election, saying: 'The deepening polarization between urban and rural voters, younger and older voters, as well as richer and poorer voters requires urgent redress through a holistic process of nation building and envisioning. The cry of different sectors of our populationrequires both a pastoral and prophetic response.'

The statement urged the ruling Zanu-PF party to pursue policies aimed at unity and reform, and issued a thinly-veiled warning to the opposition Movement for Democratic Change to eschew violence and beware of incendiary rhetoric. It refers to 'the pressing need to maintain peace and not take actions that may easily deteriorate to chaos. Volatile situations tend to deteriorate and attain a life of their own beyond anyone's control.'

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