The Zimbabwe Christian Alliance (ZCA) has called for political tolerance in the country ahead of the crucial 2023 general elections, in order to minimise violence that has always been associated with Southern African country’s elections.
Next year Zimbabweans head for the synchronised ballot to elect a President, Members of the National Assembly, Senators and Councillors in the Local Authorities.
Speaking Wednesday on peace-building and political tolerance on This Morning on Asakhe, an online programme hosted by CITE on Twitter Spaces, ZCA director Reverend Useni Sibanda said political tolerance could be taught.
“I think it’s very possible,” he said.
“Well, first from a historical outlook of backgrounds and from what we see in the trends, every time we go into an election there is always violence and I think it’s a mindset that if someone thinks differently from me, that we must all think the same way, it’s not possible.”
The Zimbabwean Constitution, Sibanda said, allows for political participation of citizens with different opinions.
“If you look at the bible itself when it says man is created in God’s image that alone tells you that man is different from animals,” he said.
“So he thinks differently, has got the ability to be creative, to think differently, to make choices. Can we teach people to tolerate? Yes, I believe in peacebuilding and in developing people, and that is very possible. People need to be taught how to tolerate each other.”
Sibanda said ZCA has been doing some peacebuilding work with ZANU-PF, CCC and MDC-T in Makokoba, adding they have come up with “a very interesting observation.”
“So we trained them on how to campaign peacefully and after that training the outcome was that they themselves then reached out to us and said look, we would like to do a peace match together,” said Sibanda.
“Then they actually did the peace march together. We were behind them praying with them, but they did it together wearing their different regalia you know and then went to different spots where they would stop and make commitment to each other and after that was done, we actually had a call from ZANU-PF where they said, you know, I would like the whole province to actually do this.”
Sibanda said their underlying theme in their training is that every person is one’s neighbour.
He explained: “So once you redefine them as a neighbour instead of a political opponent, it changes everything. So in other words, you cannot kill your neighbour, you cannot beat up your neighbour. So if I say someone is my neighbour, then it means I’ll tolerate them. I’ll be able to tolerate their differences. If they come out tomorrow wearing a red T-shirt or a yellow T-shirt or a green T-shirt it is not an issue. They are my neighbours. We remain as neighbours.”
Sibanda added: “The elections come and go, political parties will come and go, leaders will come and go, but we will remain as neighbours and I think that’s the concept which we are bringing to say, listen, this person is your neighbour. Can we have political slogans that build a nation? If you look at other countries that have moved on, they can fight during elections, but when the election is done everyone comes together, they build their nation and that’s what we are looking for here in Zimbabwe.”