By Tendai Mugabe
All 23 presidential contestants in the July 30 harmonised elections yesterday signed a high-level peace pledge committing themselves and their political parties to a peaceful campaign ahead of the polls. A few presidential candidates were represented by senior party members at the signing ceremony.
The pledge — the first in the history of elections in Zimbabwe — is in line with President Mnangagwa’s repeated calls for free, fair, peaceful and credible elections.
The high-level event was organised by the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC).
Addressing presidential candidates at the signing ceremony, NPRC chairman Retired Justice Selo Nare said it was incumbent upon all Zimbabweans to work together for the development of the country.
“Today marks an important step in our nation as all of us come together to collaborate in our efforts to contribute to sustainable peace and development,” he said.
Zanu-PF secretary for Administration Cde Obert Mpofu, who signed the peace pledge on behalf of President Mnangagwa, said: “We subscribe to a clarion call for peace by our President Cde ED Mnangagwa and the late Vice President Dr John Nkomo that ‘peace begins with you, peace begins with me, peace begins with all of us’.
“In my capacity as Minister of Home Affairs, I pledge that Government will do everything to ensure that the forthcoming elections are held in a peaceful manner devoid of victimisation, harassment, intimidation and allowing all citizens to express their views. We have opened the political space. We continue to receive observers from all over the world,” he said.
“We have even entertained some people whom we have never thought of entertaining from my party. As a result of this pledge, it is very important to us both as a party and Government to show our seriousness and political maturity as Zimbabweans. As Zanu-PF, we also commit to ensure that the message of peace will cascade to all our party structures.”
MDC leader Professor Welshman Ncube, who spoke as one of the leaders of political parties represented in the Eighth Parliament, said the primary responsibility of ensuring peace in the country rested with the Government.
“It is important that all leaders of political parties contesting for presidential office have committed themselves to this pledge. In making our pledge and commitment we should remain mindful that the primary responsibility of ensuring peace in our country rests with the Government.”
United Democratic Movement leader Violet Mariyacha, said: “They say women are peace makers and I am so glad to be here today to make a peace pledge as a mum. Peace cannot be achieved through violence.”
Mr Morgan Komichi, who was representing MDC-Alliance presidential candidate Mr Nelson Chamisa, said: “The idea of peace has always been our struggle for almost the past 20 years.”
He said the State should listen to reform demands by his party that included withdrawal of soldiers allegedly deployed in rural areas if the polls were to be held in a peaceful environment.
He said transparency on issues to do with the voters’ roll and printing of the ballot papers were key to avoid contested polls.
MDC-T vice president Mr Obert Gutu said: “I am standing in for Dr Thokozani Khupe, the president of MDC-T. There is no need for us to behave violently against one another. There is no need for us to be physically, emotionally or psychologically violent against one another regardless of our political differences. At the end of the day we are one people.”
Independent presidential candidate Mr Bryn Mteki had this to say: “This is Bryn Mteki, independent presidential candidate. I represent the people of Zimbabwe. Party politics, factionalism and violence has killed our nation. I commit myself to peace and urge all political parties to desist from violence.”
Dr Noah Manyika of Build Zimbabwe said: “I am signing this pledge yes to commit to our people not to participate in physical violence but I am also signing this pledge to make a commitment to Zimbabweans that if we are the next Government of this country no woman should walk 30km to collect firewood in Buhera. This is the commitment that all Zimbabweans should make to build our country.”
United Nations Resident Coordinator Bishow Parajuli and Head of the European Union Delegation in Zimbabwe Philippe Van Damme, among others attended the colourful event and thanked President Mnangagwa for taking a bold step to unite Zimbabweans.
Proceedings were temporarily disturbed by a member of Hashgtag 1980 Freedom Movement Zimbabwe Dr Francis Danha who protested against Zimbabwe Electoral Commission chairwoman Justice Chigumba’s address at the event.