By Ebi Kesiena
Dozens of Zimbabweans worshippers on Sunday gathered to pray ahead of a national election widely expected to be a tense affair amid a crackdown on dissent and fears of vote rigging.
The worshippers gathered for mass at a cream-coloured church facing a dusty street lined with market stalls in Harare’s oldest township of Mbare.
Speaking on behalf of the group, Apostolic Faith Mission Pastor Edson Mukaro stated that the worshippers were praying for a peaceful environment.
“We are just encouraging our people to be objective, peaceful, and to do everything in order.”
“We are non-partisan,” he added.
Zimbabwe has a long history of disputed elections marred by violence, and some fear a repeat of 2018, when the army opened fire on opposition protesters, killing six people.
Politics and religion are often intertwined in the southern African country, where evangelical and apostolical churches are dominant and some faith leaders have in the past sided with the ruling ZANU-PF party, in power since independence in 1980.
Inside the church, a choir of men and women in blue dresses with a red flower pinned on their chest sings religious anthems from behind the altar.
A toddler in blue jeans at the back jumps and claps his hands at the rhythm of gospel music and a young mother with a baby strapped on her back joins the prayers.
“We will not rest until poverty stops,” chants the pastor, as a young man at the drums heightens the preaching tempo and banknotes flow from faithful pockets into grey plastic donation baskets.
More than 40 percent of Zimbabweans were extremely destitute in 2022, according to official statistics. Good jobs are hard to come by.