Exercise restraint to honour Annan: Elders

HARARE - The Elders have urged Zimbabweans to uphold the democratic rights to justice and peaceful protest, and refrain from words or actions that could incite violence, drawing on the counsel of their late chair, Kofi Annan.

In a statement issued ahead of yesterday’s ruling by the Constitutional Court, the grouping called on political leaders to act responsibly to avert further bloodshed.

They recalled the words of Annan, who visited the country last month with his fellow Elders that “nothing other than the democratic will of the people should be allowed to determine the future of Zimbabwe.”

“Meaningful democracy is not only about free and fair elections, but also accountability for those in positions of authority, freedom of expression and assembly, respect for human and civil rights, and a clear separation of powers between the executive and the judiciary,” reads part of the statement.

The Elders reiterated their strong condemnation of the violence that erupted in Harare on August 1, leaving at least six people dead.

They said government and the security forces have the primary responsibility of maintaining peace in a professional and accountable manner that strengthens civilian authority.

“It is essential that the independent investigation ordered by President Emmerson Mnangagwa proceeds with integrity and holds accountable those found to bear responsibility for the tragic events of August 1.

“An independent enquiry should also scrutinise other incidents of post-election violence and rights violations across Zimbabwe,” the elders said.

As Annan said at the conclusion of his July visit, “’it is critical that everyone acts responsibly before, during and after the elections to ensure a Zimbabwe free from violence, where human rights are respected and prosperity restored.’”

The Elders expressed their gratitude for the generous tributes paid to Annan by Zimbabwean civil society and both Mnangagwa and the MDC Alliance presidential candidate Nelson Chamisa.

“The best way for both leaders to honour his legacy and the aspiration of the people of Zimbabwe for a brighter future for all, is to abjure violence, intimidation and incitement, and instead promote dialogue and magnanimity as a path to inclusive national reconciliation, cohesion and development.

“The Elders also reaffirmed their solidarity with civil society groups in Zimbabwe determined to bridge social fractures, and supported their calls for a new political settlement that delivers lasting social and economic justice alongside political freedom.

“In all his meetings in Zimbabwe, (Kofi) Annan repeatedly emphasised that the country had to move forward, tapping the great potential of its people and rejecting the damaging practices and policies of past leaders,” the Elders said.

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