Churches warn of increasing violence after disputed Zimbabwe elections

By on June 1, 2008

Harare/Lusaka
Churches and church hospitals are being targeted by supporters of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe who want to ensure their compatriots do not vote against the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) party in any future elections.

Representatives of the Christian Alliance, a loose grouping of Roman Catholic, Protestant and evangelical churches and organizations, issued a recent warning of increasing violence by pro-government forces against individuals, families and communities accused of supporting Zimbabwe’s political opposition in elections held March 29.

“People are being abducted, tortured, humiliated by being asked to repeat slogans of the political party they are alleged not to support, ordered to attend mass meetings where they are told they voted for the ‘wrong candidate’ … and, in some cases, people are murdered,” the churches stated.

Some church members said they believe that groups such as the Zimbabwe Council of Churches, which is linked to the World Council of Churches, no longer issues statements because they are themselves deeply divided or frightened.

The Zimbabwe Human Rights Association said in a report released in May that at least five people had been beaten at the Driefontein Sanatorium and the Muvonde Hospital in Mvuma, central Zimbabwe, by ruling party supporters. The attackers accused people at the mission of voting for the opposition in the elections.  

In Zimbabwe’s second largest city of Bulawayo, a grouping of pastors said that the Assemblies of God church in the southern Bubi district was closed down after the resident pastor fled following attacks by militants belonging to the ZANU-PF ruling party.

The attackers from the ZANU-PF accused the pastor of supporting the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party.

The MDC says at least 24 of its supporters have been killed in revenge attacks made mainly by youth militia from ZANU-PF and by soldiers following the defeat of President Mugabe’s party.

In Lusaka, in neighbouring Zambia, Bishop John Mambo of the Church of God in Zambia endorsed concerns expressed by the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace in Zimbabwe that the prevailing situation in Zimbabwe is not conducive to a free and fair presidential runoff.

Mr. Mugabe’s party, which has ruled Zimbabwe since 1980, was narrowly beaten by the MDC in the parliamentary elections. The electoral commission he appointed declared on May 2 that the 84-year-old president had also lost the presidential poll. His opponent, Morgan Tsvangirai, received 48 per cent of the presidential vote, while Mr. Mugabe got 43 per cent. Zimbabwe’s election law stipulates 50 per cent plus one vote is required to avoid a runoff, but the MDC says it won the presidential poll outright and that it garnered 50.3 per cent of the vote.

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