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 CNS Story:

ZIMBABWE-ACCEPT Aug-5-2013 (480 words) xxxi

Zimbabwean bishops urge political parties to accept election results

By Bronwen Dachs
Catholic News Service

CAPE TOWN, South Africa (CNS) -- As Zimbabwe's church leaders called on the country's political parties to accept the results of July 31 elections, a spokesman for the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops' Conference said he hoped that the church can help mediate a peaceful resolution.

"I hope the churches can play a key role in finding a peaceful resolution so that Zimbabwe can make the new start it so desperately needs," Father Frederick Chiromba, secretary-general of the bishops' conference, said in an Aug. 5 telephone interview from Harare.

President Robert Mugabe took 62 percent of the presidential vote, while opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai won 34 percent, according to official results.

The 89-year-old president has been in power since 1980 and was running for a seventh term.

Tsvangirai rejected the results, charging that there was widespread vote-rigging. He said he will challenge the outcome as well as the count that gave Mugabe's ZANU-PF party a two-thirds majority in parliament.

"We urge all political parties and stakeholders who feel aggrieved by any challenge or issue to act in a restrained manner that will allow for dialogue, due process and the preservation of peace and stability in Zimbabwe," said the Zimbabwe Heads of Christian Denominations in an Aug. 2 statement. The organization includes the leaders of the bishops' conference, the Zimbabwe Council of Churches and the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe.

"Where there are legitimate and substantiated irregularities and anomalies, we urge concerned parties to resolve these through peaceful dialogue, law abiding and in an orderly manner," the statement said.

The church leaders urged Zimbabweans "to remain united in prayer, faith and hope and to maintain a spirit of restraint, tolerance and harmony."

Father Chiromba said it is crucial that Zimbabweans "make a way forward together."

"We will try to meet with the stakeholders and come to some understanding of what might have transpired," he told Catholic News Service.

"With many countries raising questions around the credibility of the elections, our hope for a new start has been greatly reduced," he added.

Monitors from the southern African region and observers from the continent-wide African Union have demanded investigations into allegations of inflated voting by ZANU-PF and missing names of thousands of eligible voters from the voters' roll.

Poll irregularities also were recorded by Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace in Zimbabwe and the Inter-Regional Meeting of Bishops of Southern Africa.

The church leaders urged the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to "take the necessary steps" to address the allegations.

"The opposition feels cheated and their grievances need to be addressed through the proper channels," Father Chiromba said.

Noting that it was "very significant" that the elections took place peacefully, Father Chiromba said that Zimbabweans "can work through this" impasse together.

"The situation we are in carries the risk that Zimbabwe will continue to be isolated" from the international community, he said.


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