Religious leaders in Bulawayo have engaged the local Joint Operations Command (JOC) over security issues following the deployment of military personnel and subsequent allegations of human rights violations in the city.
JOC comprises senior officials from the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA), Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP), Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services (ZPCS), Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) and Air Force of Zimbabwe (AFZ), who are responsible for the coordination of state security in the country.
Last week Friday, church leaders in the company of JOC officials toured the western suburbs of the city assessing the extent of damages that occurred during the violent shutdown protests.
Church leaders then held meetings with JOC on a possible way forward concerning the tense situation that has unfolded in Bulawayo.
In an interview with CITE, one of the city’s religious figures who attended the meeting, Bishop Sindah Ngulube from the Brethren in Christ Church confirmed that the meetings between senior pastors and members of JOC are taking place.
However, he refused to divulge further information pertaining to the nature and tone of discussions between the two parties.
“The meetings are still ongoing and it is premature to give the exact details as we are still in deliberations,” he said.
Bishop Ngulube noted that as church leaders, they had presented their concerns to JOC and were engaging on security matters that now affected residents.
“We are still waiting upon JOC to engage us further,” he curtly said.
Turning to their tour of western suburbs last week, the bishop highlighted it was a necessary move for them to have an accurate picture of what had taken place during the protests.
“We did visit some of the supermarkets that were looted and this is very disturbing. We wanted to assess the damage and have an informed position as bishops and senior pastors in order to have insight. We wanted to see for ourselves, rather than hearing reports.”
He added that as part of church leadership in the city, their prayer and desire was to have peaceful conflict resolution methods.
“Solving conflicts in a peaceful manner is what we are praying for. Even if as citizens we feel we have not be done right, we should always aim to solve issues in a peaceful manner,” Bishop Ngulube pleaded.