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As election results come in, “please keep Zimbabwe in your prayers”

31 July 2018

As election polls closed in Zimbabwe on 31 July, and people awaited announcements of results, reports on the ground were indicating that, although peace was holding, the situation is tense.

Churches have played a major role in facilitating peace as Zimbabweans took part in their first presidential elections in nearly 40 years without Robert Mugabe on the ballot. Some 5,635,706 people registered to vote in elections to select a president, 210 members of parliament and more than 9,000 councilors.

Counting has begun in districts, and results for local and parliamentary elections are being announced as they are known. Presidential votes are being counted locally, and the winner will be announced by the country’s electoral commission within five days.

The Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC) had election monitors at polling stations throughout the country.

Adebayo Anthony Kehinde, a member of the World Council of Churches (WCC) Commission of the Churches on International Affairs, said he is very happy that Zimbabweans themselves believed so much in the election process, evidenced by the large turnout in many polling stations.

“The enthusiasm of the people and the role played by the Zimbabwe Council of Churches with accompaniment of other ecumenical actors has helped greatly in building more credibility into the electoral process,” said Kehinde. “As a witness to the final rallies of the two main political parties, both offered great hope to the population. However, we still need to keep Zimbabwe in our prayers as we await the final results.”

Rev. Dr Andrew Williams participated as an international observer in the elections, representing the WCC, and joining participants from the Church of Sweden, the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC), and South Africa to support the ZCC in its work.

I pray I vote

“The ZCC is highly regarded for their input in the process,” said Williams. “Their campaign - “I pray I vote” - has helped mobilise people in the churches to exercise their right to vote.”

The “I pray I vote” web and social media campaign was initiated by the ZCC six months prior to the election. The campaign correlates praying for fair elections, peace and prosperity with concrete action by casting a vote to influence the direction of the country.

“In visiting polling stations on Election Day, the process seemed to run smoothly and be conducted carefully according to the rules,” said Williams. “We saw no violence, but rather people who were willing to come out early and sometimes wait for a considerable time to exercise their right to vote.”

Williams and others were hoping for results from the presidential election sooner than five days. The ZCC is urging people to remain prayerfully patient as they wait for the official result to be announced.

“I am very impressed with the work of the ZCC and the way they have organised the gathering and monitoring of information,” said Williams. “They have done a great job and other African leaders from the AACC who are part of the delegation of international observers say that they have learned valuable lessons on how the churches can engage in the election process.”

Yet the situation remains tense, cautioned Williams. “Not everyone will accept the results,” he said. “The ZCC continues to ask for prayers for Zimbabwe, to call for peace and calm and to look for a coordinated platform for solutions to the political problems that the country will face in the coming days. Please keep Zimbabwe in your prayers.”

Before the election

Earlier this month, bishops and pastors from ZCC member churches led an ecumenical service at the Anglican Cathedral of St Mary and All Saints in Harare to pray for election observers.

On the eve of the election, the ZCC issued a pastoral pronouncement that said, in part: “The words of our Lord Jesus Christ – ‘Let not your hearts be troubled’ give assurance to an anxious nation. Some are anxious whether the peace we have enjoyed in this pre-election period will hold. Others are worried if their voice will be heard through the ballot. Still some wonder if the nation will find each other after so much divisive campaign period.”

WCC member churches in Zimbabwe

WCC interview: Zimbabwe Council of Churches general secretary Kenneth Mtata

Blog post by Rev. Dr Andrew Williams
WCC/ZCC Observer: Prayerful patience as Zimbabwe waits for election results

Blog post by Kerstin Pihl and Sven Eckerdal
WCC/ZCC Observer: We pray and hope, for Zimbabwe's elections