Catholic bishops join calls for voter registration; warn against violence ahead of crunch elections

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The Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace in Zimbabwe (CCJPZ), an entity of the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference (ZCBC), is calling on citizens of the Southern African nation to register as voters to be able to exercise their “duty as responsible citizens” in this year’s general election.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) started its final Biometric Voter Registration blitz on March 12. The exercise is expected to conclude on March 21.

In a March 11 statement, CCJPZ officials say the election, whose date is yet to be announced by Zimbabwe’s President, Emmerson Mnangagwa, is a moment of communal discernment just like the Synod on Synodality.

“The blitz can be understood as the window period for people to register to vote before the elections. We encourage every person above eighteen (18) years, including Persons with Disabilities (PWDs), youths and women to be part of this constitutional and democratic process,” CCJPZ officials say.

The registration exercise “is a call inviting us to exercise our duty as responsible citizens,” they further say.

CCJPZ officials underscore the need for the electorate to take part in the poll, saying, “Consider this, at least once every five years you have an opportunity to choose who should lead.”

“Will you choose or you will let others choose for you? Will you be content living the next five years with other people’s choices when you had an opportunity to determine the future?” CCJPZ officials pose in their March 11 statement.

Like the ongoing preparations for the Synod on Synodality, officials of the Catholic Bishops’ Commission say the electioneering people is an invitation for Zimbabweans to journey together.

“As we celebrate the Synod on synodality, we are called to journey together and not to leave anyone behind. How far does your understanding of synodality stretch? Elections are an expression of journeying and discerning our future together as a nation,” they say.

They add, “It, therefore, will be proper that as we exercise our democratic and constitutional right individuals, we also see these elections as an exercise in communal discernment.”

CCJPZ officials further say that Christians are obligated “to participate and associate not only in Church matters but even in civil matters.”

“No one can tell who to vote for or which party to join, rather we encourage you to participate and to be fully involved in the life of our country. That life by the way does not exclude politics and elections are another way of participating in the life of our country,” they say.

In their February 22 Lenten Pastoral Letter 2023, ZCBC described the general elections in which President Mnangagwa is seeking a second term as “a sacred moment of synodality” for Zimbabweans.

“A general election is a sacred moment of Synodality and communal discernment because Synodality is about journeying together, an important watershed moment in the life of a people.” ZCBC members said, adding, “A general election should never be preceded by violence.”

They called upon Zimbabweans to discern the direction they want their landlocked nation to take, saying, “This lent must give us time to think about the sort of leadership we want.”

The electioneering period, ZCBC members said, provides “a time of communal discernment about the kind of leadership we want, and where we wish to go as a nation.”

They emphasized the need for the polls to be held with importance, saying, “If important elections such as these become nothing but a power game, seeking to attain or retain power and nothing else to offer beyond this, then as a nation, we are lost and we are doomed.”