Elders with the nation at heart

13 May, 2018 - 00:05 0 Views

The Sunday Mail

Veronica Gwaze
THE Zimbabwe National Elders Forum has played a key role in mediation processes since the days of the liberation struggle.
The forum is mostly made up of clergymen who have dedicated decades to serving God.

In between their busy schedules behind the pulpits, the elders also devote time to mediate in ensuring peace.

Catholic Priest, Father Fidelis Mukonori, is one such prominent man of cloth among the ZNEF members.

He played a critical role in the Operation Restore Legacy talks in November 2017 as he shuttled between former President Mr Robert Mugabe and the command element of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF).

Father Mukonori said, “Although mediators are not politicians, they play a crucial role in politics. During the 1979 Lancaster House Conference, we were engaged in talks between Zimbabwean liberators and the Ian Smith regime, they dragged for 17 weeks. Finally, we reached an agreement and a cease fire was announced.”

During the land reform program in 2000, Father Mukonori said medication avoided a potential bloodshed.

“When the land reform began in Hwedza, I had to temporarily stay with the Svosve people; the ones who initiated the land reform program. The situation was delicate and there was serious need for mediation to deal with confrontations.

“I was then asked by white farmers to mediate between them and the Government during the whole land redistribution exercise. I chaired meetings as the mediator for eight months.”

“The MDC also approached my team seeking intervention in highly charged situations against ZANU-PF. I also chaired private meetings between the two parties.

“Mediation has always been the way to go and in Africa, chiefs were used to resolve disputes in societies.

“This is an African phenomenon (mediation) which has subsequently became a new type of politics. Mediation averts civil wars, strikes, demonstrations and killings.

“It gives room for consultation and consensus building through negotiated outcomes while confrontation leads to violence and loss of lives.”

The cleric added that the elders forum has also been involved in negotiations to stop civil servants’ industrial strikes.

“We were involved in peaceful negotiations to avert strikes by workers. We are committed to finding solutions to problems,” he said.

“However, in all this, take note that elders have no political aspirations. It’s all about national interest at heart.”

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