The practice of unveiling tombstone is a recent phenomenon among Shona Christians in Zimbabwe, a case of religious change.
The aftermath of 2018 Zimbabwean elections was characterised by blood bath of political opposition members who had took to the streets citing delayed announcement of presidential results.
The national army allegedly killed some of the participants in the demonstration and a commission of Inquiry was carried out to which the results are yet to be fully complied by.
August is traditionally a month were the people of Zimbabwe do some activities known in shona as kurova makuva or chenura simply meaning returning the spirit of the dead into the family.
The practice is truely African and still practiced this day.
Christianity being the dominant religion have incorporated the practice though leaving the returning of dead spirits in the family part, people no longer want to be associated with the ancient practices as it goes contrary to biblical teachings.
Historically, several church doctrines and practices have been negative towards African Traditional Religions (ATRs).
Christians in the country have reacted by trying to accommodate the two religious traditions and through efforts to replace some ATR practices with similar conceptual categories anchored in Christianity.
It is noted that the dynamics of religious change are not only located at the points of contact between the two religious traditions but are also internal.
Nowdays people in Zimbabwe now do tombostones unveiling.
However, with Zimbabwe having its elections this August on 23, so many tombstones unveiling have been affected.
Several people have to hushedly carry out their tombostones unveiling before the elections as they are not sure the environment after elections will be conducive to do the unveiling.
Some have deferred the unveiling to 2024 August also citing the unpredictable election environment which might not be peaceful for gatherings.
“We can not gather to unveil tombostones this August for it can be construed as a political gathering and we do not want to receive bashing from political players so we have rescheduled the unveiling of the stones to next year”, said James Matimba of Chapwanya village.
Zimbabwe has a history of elections marred by violence and controversy and this election is not spared out.
The 2008, presidential runoff election is still fresh in the minds of the electorate.
The period towards the runoff to the elections which pitted the late Robert Mugabe of ZANU PF and the late Morgan Tsvangirai an opposition leader left many people dead, several nursing injuries, some displaced and properties burnt.
The new constitution of Zimbabwe which came into effect in 2023 stipulates that when the President proclaims the date of natiomal elections, he or she must also proclaim the date of run-off elections just in case there will not be a winner.
The Electoral Act sets out time-limits for other processes in general elections, such as nomination of candidates and run-off elections in the case of presidential elections.
According to sections 38 of the Act, a presidential proclamation calling an election must specify the run off date.
Polling day for a run-off presidential election, if a run-off becomes necessary after no candidate in the original election received a plurality of the votes. A run-off election must be held between 28 and 42 days after polling day in the original election.
For there to be a winner for presidential candidates, the winning candidate should attain 50 percent plus one vote of the total casted vote.
The history of previous runoffs which were very volatile brought the uncertainity among Zimbabweans who would wanted to unveil stones in the month of August which traditionally is when the unveiling are mostly done.
“We have to hurry the process so as to have the tombostone unveiling done before the elections since we will not know what after the elections situation would be like”, Richard Mafusire said as he held his inlaw tombostone unveiling last week in Buhera.