By Mugove Tafirenyika
President Emmerson Mnangagwa and MDC Alliance presidential candidate Nelson Chamisa snubbed an interface meeting of all presidential candidates convened by the civic society in Harare yesterday to foster peace ahead of the crunch July 30 elections.
Both were conspicuous by their absence at the Jesuit-run, Arrupe College indaba, in Mt Pleasant.
Chamisa ignored the interface with clergymen to focus on his campaign rallies in Karoi and Kariba, Mashonaland West Province, while Mnangagwa addressed his own at Rimuka Stadium in Kadoma in the same province.
Several presidential candidates, however, braved the chilly weather to participate at the event.
Former vice president Joice Mujuru, who leads the People’s Rainbow Coalition; Noah Manyika of Build Zimbabwe; Elton Mangoma (Coalition of Democrats); Blessing Kasiyamhuru (Zimbabwe Partnership for Prosperity) and MDC vice president Obert Gutu, who stood in for the party leader, Thokozani Khupe, were among those who were in attendance.
Addressing the gathering, head of Silveira Mission Father Arnold Moyo expressed dismay over the absence of Mnangagwa and Chamisa — the two key candidates in the election’s snub.
“Some chairs are enduring a cold spell here as you can see and we hope this will not continue as we expect those who promised us that they will come to live up to their promises and make their way here,” Moyo said in apparent reference to the duo.
Other church leaders who addressed the gathering include Shingi Munyeza, who gave a powerful speech, congratulating whoever will emerge the winner in the hotly contested polls.
“As ordinary citizens, we want to congratulate you sir or madam for your victory, which comes at a time the country needs a unifier, a servant leader, a listening leader, a visionary leader full of integrity in all aspects of his life because we are tired of predators, opportunists, selfish and insensitive leaders,” Munyeza said.
He called on whoever will be the next president to ensure that he/she revisits atrocities committed by the previous governments, including Gukurahundi, to ensure the country undergoes a healing process.
On the economic front, Munyeza challenged the would-be-president to ensure economic prosperity and equal opportunities for Zimbabweans.
“Our progress has been derailed by cruel leaders who pursued their selfish ambitions along the way so it is not an easy task ahead.
“We need to revisit crimes committed by the State such as Gukurahundi, Murambatsvina and election violence which was State-sponsored. So we need an apology on behalf of your predecessors and your behalf for we have all sinned at one point or the other.
“Zimbabweans long for opportunities. Give us a reason to dream again without the dream turning into a nightmare. We know you are inheriting a nation that has been isolated from the family of nations. Please don’t take us for granted because this is our country too, we deserve better. We call upon you to be a president of every Zimbabwean. Treat the losers with dignity as you take your victory with Grace. Uphold our Constitution; eliminate corruption within the executive to the lowest person and remove the spirit of entitlement and patronage,” he pleaded.
Running under the theme “Promoting Peace and Mutual Respect in a Multi-party Zimbabwe”, each presidential candidate was given an opportunity to address the audience and sell their manifestos.
Silveira House, a Catholic-run peace-building and leadership training institute, in conjunction with the citizens, multiparty and the business community, were the brains behind the indaba.
It ended with the candidates signing a document committing themselves and their supporters to ensure a peaceful environment prevails before, during and after the elections.
Meanwhile, Father Frederick Chiromba — the secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference — has said it is pleasing that at least 80 percent of the candidates participated at the indaba.
“The overall aim of this endeavour is the promotion of long lasting peace and a broader socio-political imaginary, thereby laying a firmer foundation for meaningful development in the process and we are happy with the response although we would have been happier with everyone in attendance,” Chiromba said.
He said the presence of presidential candidates in a single space, with each of them addressing the same audience, was symbolic as it teaches the multi-party society dictates of tolerance for different political views while helping people to live peacefully.
“The presence of the presidential candidates next to each other will serve to remind citizens of the value of peaceful coexistence irrespective of political affiliation. We all share the same aspirations of peace and prosperity for our country, even if we may differ on how these ought to be achieved,” Chiromba said while addressing journalists ahead of the vent. DailyNews