Churches call for calm as Zimbabwe awaits election results
With tension building as results from Saturday's elections trickle in, religious leaders are calling for restraint on all sides.
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"The church could have played a major role – it could have a prophetic voice against repression. But due to the lack of a moral foundation, the church has missed out on that."Skip to next paragraph
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The flashpoints are numerous. Security chiefs in the country have declared that they will not salute Mr. Tsvangirai in the event that he wins the elections because he does not have military credentials.
Meanwhile, sources in the military said the security chiefs are divided about how to handle the crisis as preliminary results show Tsvangirai leading the race. The sources said the security chiefs met Sunday for more than three hours and Monday for nearly half a day, but failed to map out their strategy in the days ahead.
"This is why the results are taking long to be released," said a senior source in the military. "There is a crisis in the security services at the moment because some are saying the results should be announced as they are while others want them doctored in favor of Mugabe."
Police commissioner general Augustine Chihuri, Zimbabwe Defense Forces commander Constantine Chiwenga, and Prisons Services chief Paradzai Zimondi are said to have vowed not to let results that favor Tsvangirai be released. But commander of the national Air Force, Air Vice Marshal Perence Shiri, and Zimbabwe National Army Commander Phillip Valelio Sibanda are insisting that the results be announced as they are.
At press time, rumors were swirling that advisers may even be negotiating Mugabe's resignation and a transfer of power. Those reports could not be independently verified.
Be 'living stones,' says pastor
In the small parish office of a Baptist church in the opposition stronghold of Bulawayo, the Rev. Ray Motsi holds a midmorning Bible study meeting with parishioners. The room is crowded with well-dressed young men and women, all of them professionals who have taken time out from work to study a Bible passage describing Jesus as the "living stone."
"Jesus was a stone rejected by the builders, but chosen by God," says Rev. Motsi. "You also are all chosen for your uniqueness, because of what role God wants you to fulfill. We have all experienced far less than what God has intended."
As the parishioners leave the office, taking their chairs with them out into a hall that is filling up with poor rural Zimbabweans awaiting a meal, Motsi tells a visiting reporter that churches must be engaged in all aspects of society. But they must maintain their political independence.
"The church is not something that [Mugabe] or someone else can play with, or something that can be given away to the politicians," he says. "The politicians need to come to the church, not the church bowing to the politicians."
He actually relishes the challenge of being a pastor in the current economic crisis, he says. "What a wonderful opportunity to live in these times in Zimbabwe, despite these conditions. What an opportunity to demonstrate we are living stones. If you are not a pastor in a time like this, you will never be a pastor."
Yet this "prophetic" voice of outrage does not relieve him of his "day job," to look after the spiritual growth of his flock. "Difficult times force us to grow, and I personally see growth in the manner in which people are revived and encouraged. We are so excited, raring to go."
• A journalist who could not be named for security reasons contributed from Harare.