Churches denounce recalls, calls for repeal of enabling law

The Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC) has condemned the recent recall of Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) legislators from Parliament, saying it will widen divisions that already exist in the country.

ZCC stated these recalls add to the stress that people are feeling and called for a possible repeal of Section 129 (1) (k) in Zimbabwe’s Constitution, which speaks on recalls that end up costing the country financially through by-elections.

“In the aftermath of the 2023 elections, the Church has been closely monitoring developments in the country and is deeply concerned with the emerging behaviours from Parliament, the random recalling of the 15 members of the CCC,” said ZCC in a pastoral statement titled Parliamentary Recalls: A Call for Responsible Leadership.

“The Church is deeply concerned that the recalls of the CCC Parliamentarians place a wedge between political actors and their supporters hence further perpetuating the deep polarisation and divisions that have characterised our nation before and after the August 2023 elections.”

According to ZCC, Zimbabwe is still “recovering” from the disputed 2023 election processes, outcomes, and results, while the recalls will relapse the country rather than heal and unite the country.

“Whilst the move to recall MPs was initiated by political actors, it disrespects the will of the electorate who sacrificed their time on Election Day to cast their vote and select the leaders they want,” said the Church leaders.

“These recalls strongly send signals that political actors are power focused and do not consider the will of Zimbabweans who vote, thus undermining the significance of elections as a process that portrays the will of the people.”

Given Zimbabwe’s fragile political landscape, ZCC argued the recalls could be interpreted as a deliberate move to silence and dismantle opposition alternative voices, bringing the country towards a one-party state, violating Section 3(2)(a) and Section 67(4) of the 2013 Constitution.

“The recalling of MPs creates a vacuum in the Lower house which ultimately affects the legislative quality and capacity. The legal agenda presented in the State of the Nation Address by President Emmerson Mnangagwa revealed critical bills to be reviewed hence the recalls weaken the quality of laws that will be passed during this period,” ZCC said. 

Since the recalled MPs and councillors require replacements through by-elections, ZCC noted Zimbabwe continues to be gripped and fixated on election mode instead of focusing on nation-building and economic development post the 2023 elections.

“Elections have a heavy fiscal strain on the limited resources that can be directed towards development programmes. The 2023 elections revealed the limited fiscal resources have a huge bearing on the logistical capacity of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to conduct elections,” said the Church leaders. 

“The possibility of holding by-elections against the background of constrained fiscal resources raises questions on the capacity of ZEC to conduct such elections in a credible manner especially as we are a few months away from our harmonised elections.”

Church leaders also raised concern on the “alleged” manner in which Speaker of the National Assembly in Parliament, Jacob Mudenda, handled the recall process by recognising a letter from interim CCC Secretary General, Sengezo Tshabangu, who made the recalls yet disregarding communique from CCC president, Nelson Chamisa.

“This allegation taints and validates long-standing assertions of unfair practices in our strategic state institutions,” ZCC said, adding that Zimbabwe “is hurting and trying to recover from allegations of use of loopholes and applications of law to shrink the democratic space.”

This unfolding incident noted ZCC, buttressed assertions of captured institutions and “ undoubtedly distract Zimbabwe from focusing on national development as all efforts are redirected to politics and by-elections.”

In view of the above, ZCC reiterated the “prophetic” call for dialogue towards disentangling the country from the election mode and finding a path to a collective defined future, building unity, shared national values and vision, inclusive and shared economic prosperity, healing, justice and peace plus an entrenchment of constitutional democracy.

“(ZCC) calls for the review and repeal of Section 129 (1) (k) of the constitution of Zimbabwe which has been widely abused to disempower the electorate and resulted in significant waste of resources through by-elections,” said ZCC, also calling on member churches and the Christian community to continue preaching messages of love, hope and compassion.

“(ZCC) appeals to all Zimbabweans in the country and beyond to remain calm and to offer prayers and supplication.”

Church leaders also called on political leaders to be guided by the biblical teaching of Philippians 2 verse 3, which advises people “to do nothing out of strife and vainglory but to be humble and to esteem others better than themselves. This is what characterises responsible leadership.”

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