The Christian churches in Zimbabwe have for the first time condemned the recent presidential election as rigged and criticized the violent actions of the party of head of state Robert Mugabe. Church leaders lament political violence in the country, ranging from displacement and torture to murder, which has traumatized the population.
The runoff election in late June, after which Mugabe declared himself the winner, did not reflect the will of the people, according to a joint statement, as reported by the British broadcaster BBC on Tuesday. The country now needs a government of national unity and a "spirit of forgiveness," it continues. The Christian churches, to which the majority of the Zimbabwean population belongs, could contribute to the reconciliation process. However, there is currently no longer a culture of tolerance in the country, the BBC quoted the secretary general of the Zimbabwe Bishops' Conference, Frederick Chiromba. "In doing so, we could be united despite all our differences". The presidential candidate of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), Morgan Tsvangirai, had won the first election in late March against Mugabe, according to early projections. The official result, on the other hand, made a runoff election necessary. Mugabe's ZANU-PF party then cracked down on MDC supporters with violence, prompting Tsvangirai to eventually renounce his candidacy. According to his party, 113 members have been killed since March, 5.000 are considered missing. More than 200.000 people are said to have been displaced.