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Church offers to mediate Zimbabwe election dispute

CAPE TOWN (CNS): “We have offered to mediate any election disputes as well as broader concerns,” Father Frederick Chiromba, secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference said on August 6 after six people were killed in violence that followed a disputed presidential election.
Emmerson Mnangagwa was declared the winner on July 30, but opposition leader, Nelson Chamisa, disputed the result and said he will challenge it in court.
Mnangagwa succeeded Robert Mugabe, who had led Zimbabwe since its independence from Britain in 1980, after a military takeover in November 2017.
“We condemn the killing of the demonstrators and all the ruthless force used” by the army and police, the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace in Zimbabwe said after security forces in the capital, Harare, shot at protesters who accused the government of vote-rigging.
Noting that the use of live ammunition to restrain unarmed civilians was “oo extreme and violated basic rights, the commission also criticised the protesters for violence, including the destruction of property.
It urged the security forces to apologise, particularly to the bereaved families.
“Saying ‘sorry’ would open doors for healing and rebuilding of good relationships between citizens and their defense forces,” the commission said in an August 2 statement signed by commission chairperson Bishop Rudolf Nyandoro of Gokwe.
Zimbabwe’s churches could mediate an “all-sides confidential dialogue,” the commission said, noting that “an inclusive, objective, internally constructed process” is needed to resolve the electoral conflict.
Father Chiromba said the Church in Zimbabwe would be well positioned to lead the activities of the national peace and reconciliation process that began early this year. 
The challenges the country faces “are much deeper than the elections,” Father Chiromba explained. 
“There is still a lack of trust between the people and government” at all levels and the country’s churches have “a big role to play in restoring that trust,” he said.
“If we can manage to move forward as one people,” much-needed development will follow, he said.
Mugabe’s policies are widely blamed for the country’s economic decline over the last two decades.
Most people in Zimbabwe, with a population of nearly 16 million, survive on US$1 ($7.8) a day.

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