Churches in Zimbabwe campaigned during the past few months in an effort to ensure that peace prevailed in the run-up to, and during, the national elections in the southern Africa country.
Millions of people voted peacefully across the county on Monday and sources say turnout appeared extremely high, with long lines of voters forming outside polling stations across the country when they opened at 7am. Full results are not due until much later in the week, and possibly as late as the weekend, according to local sources.
An outbreak of violence in the capital Harare on Wednesday, however, suggested that there was more to do to heal this nation, in which the Churches have become a trusted player. Witnesses reported seeing soldiers firing teargas, live ammunition and beating people with makeshift batons.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa today, Thursday called for an independent investigation into the violence.
Despite rising tension, Zimbabwe Council of Churches Chairperson, Bishop Mpande Lazarus Khanye told sources the election had shown that Zimbabweans had shifted towards a culture of peace.
Bishop Khanye called on political parties to accept poll results, whatever the outcome.
The two main candidates include the president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, 75, who was a longtime Mugabe aide and is head of the ruling Zanu-PF party.
The other, Nelson Chamisa, 40, leads the main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). He is a lawyer and pastor whose only experience of power was a stint as a minister in a coalition government several years ago.
“In any election, there is a winner and a loser. Tensions are there, however, we are calling on the losers to accept their loss and as churches we are prepared to continue playing our role through post election dialogue sessions,” Bishop Khanye said.
Zimbabwe Christian Alliance Director, Reverend Useni Sibanda said he was happy that efforts of signing the peace pledge had not been in vain.
“After these elections, we expect and hope that Zimbabweans will continue to be as peaceful as they have been in the run up to the election, and on the Election Day. The post election period is very crucial and we pray that peace prevails in our country,” said Rev Sibanda.