AS the country gears for up for next year’s harmonised general elections, the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) and the Political Actors Dialogue (Polad) have urged Zimbabweans to shun polarisation and unite.
The NPRC and Polad are holding a joint workshop on National Healing and National Building at a local hotel that ends today and is being attended by principals of political parties and heads of thematic committees to discuss peace and its importance during elections.
Zimbabwe held by-elections two weeks ago for urban councils and House of Assembly seats, which had instances of political violence.
Concerned by the polarisation in the country, the principals of Polad have created thematic committees, one of which is the “national healing and nation building” that convened the two-day workshop in Bulawayo between Wednesday and Thursday.
Mrs Lucia Matibenga, who chairs the National Healing and Peace Building Committee under Polad, bemoaned the continued polarisation in Zimbabwe.
“We consider ourselves as an important stakeholder in terms of campaigning for peace and making sure that we run for elections and don’t end up with disputed elections around issues of violence and intimidation,” she said.
“The just ended by-elections generally went on well, but we still have a lot of polarisation, toxicity around how individuals and individual organisations relate to one another; particularly on social media, as the people put out their ideas to the electorate.
“It’s still quite toxic, polarised, full of hurt and hate and we think that we need to do more work around improving the environment as it were. But the elections went fairly well.”
Mrs Matibenga said it was important to have on-going interactions between Polad and NPRC to capacitate each other for election cycles and how to preserve peace.
“It’s important for us to interact with them as Polad as we prepare for the elections next year. We saw it fit for us to create a synergy between what we do as political actors and what the NPRC is doing around peace issues. We are also taking the opportunity during this workshop to capacitate the Polad principals and committee matters on understanding the key issues around peace and its importance.
“Elections are not an event; they will happen on a certain day. There is the electoral cycle as a whole, we should be concerned as serious politicians about the whole cycle of elections being peaceful, free of violence and intimidation, before, during and after,” said Mrs Matibenga.
NPRC chairperson, Retired Justice Selo Nare, said it was worrying that during the election period, peace is disturbed.
“It’s disturbing that each time that there are elections somehow peace is disturbed. These past elections that happened Harare had some problems even Gweru had a bit of it, but Bulawayo was quite peaceful. I was one of the people that moved around to find out what was happening in Matabeleland,” said Retired Justice Nare.
He said political parties play an important role with regards to peace.
“They must talk peace to their clients, to the people who they talk to and that is very necessary. Sometimes you hear about voter education. It is very necessary to be told about peace. It should start with Polad members to promote peace and educate the public and the NPRC,” said Retired Justice Nare.
The parties that met in Bulawayo include, African People’s Congress, Zimbabwe National Democratic Party, Labour, Economist and African Democrats, National Constitutional Assembly, Republican Party of Zimbabwe, Coalition of Democrats, Bethel Christian Party, National Alliance of Patriotic and Democratic Republicans, Build Zimbabwe Alliance, United Democracy Movement and People’s Progressive Party. The Polad thematic committees are in national healing, international relations, governance and economy.
Polad was set up by President Mnangagwa after the 2018 elections and is made up of 18 opposition political parties and the ruling party Zanu-PF.
The NPRC was constituted in accordance with the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No.20) Act 2013 and the National Peace and Reconciliation Act Chapter 10:32 of 2018.
The establishment of the NPRC is the realisation of the social and political will and aspiration of Zimbabweans to transition from a conflictual past to a harmonious future.