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Church leaders in Zimbabwe call for a ‘Sabbath’ suspension of elections

18 October 2019


Villagers collect their monthly subsidised maize from the government in Mount Darwin, Zimbabwe, last Friday

Villagers collect their monthly subsidised maize from the government in Mount Darwin, Zimbabwe, last Friday

CHURCH leaders in Zimbabwe, at a meeting last week in Harare, called for a “Sabbath”: a suspension of all elections for seven years, to enable the nation to come together and address the current national emergency, heal broken relationships, reconcile and rebuild the nation, and reach consensus on a reform and economic agenda.

The proposal was made by the Zimbabwe Heads of Christian Denominations (ZHOCD), who said that they believed it to be a “comprehensive but sustainable solution. . .

“We have prayerfully come to the conclusion that, in light of the current political paralysis, deepening mistrust, and the dehumanising economic decline, the nation will need to take a bold decision to address the root causes of the our national challenges that have a very long history and will not be fully resolved by one entity.

“In this light we are calling the nation to Sabbath on all political contestation for a period of seven years, to allow for the rebuilding of trust and confidence, reset our politics, and chart a shared way forward towards a comprehensive economic recovery path in a non-competitive political environment.”

The Sabbath — or a cycle of seven days, years, or seven times seven years — was deeply rooted in the Bible and theology, they said.

ZHOCD is an umbrella body made up of the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe, the Union for the Development of Apostolic Churches in Zimbabwe Africa, the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference, and the Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC).

The statement was sent to the President, Emmerson Mnangagwa, the leader of the opposition, Nelson Chamisa, and all parliamentary political parties. The general secretary of the ZCC, the Revd Dr Kenneth Mtata, said on Monday that they were still awaiting a formal response.

The Sabbath call was discussed on social media and on radio in Zimbabwe. For the first time since President Mnangagwa came to power two years ago, a government minister, Dr Energy Mutodi, openly attacked Dr Mtata on Twitter.

On Monday, Dr Mtata said about the threats: “It just signifies that people at the feeding trough on both sides of the political divide don’t want to see a lasting solution.”

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