Community members in Tsholotsho North have noted that quality health services  is key to the development of the district. This came out during a community dialogue meeting in Tsholotsho North ward 5 organised by a community peace club established by a community that works with Heal Zimbabwe. The objective of the dialogue meeting was to discuss challenges that are faced by community members in accessing health services at Sipepa clinic. The dialogue was a follow up on the Duty Bearers training that was conducted earlier in the month where it was unanimously agreed that there was need to engage clinic personnel and the various Health committees. The dialogue was attended by community members who include Traditional leaders, Village Development Committee (VIDCO) members, women groups and youths.

The dialogue meeting afforded community members an opportunity to interact with representatives from the Health Centre Committee (HCC) and the Health Advisory Board (HAB) and highlight challenges they faced in accessing health services at Sipepa clinic. Among the issues highlighted by community members are shortages of drugs and lack of medical personnel at Sipepa clinic. Community members also noted access to quality health was a constitution right provided for by Section 76 of the constitution that highlights that, “Every citizen and permanent resident of Zimbabwe has the right to have access to basic health-care services, including reproductive health-care services”. Community members further noted that provision of quality health services is central to human happiness and well-being. It also makes an important contribution to economic progress, as healthy populations live longer and are more productive

As a way forward, HCC and HAB were assigned to   take up the issue with clinic officials at Sipepa clinic and later on conduct a feedback meeting where they will appraise the community. The dialogue meeting come against a background where Heal Zimbabwe community peace structures across are conducting Social Accountability engagement platforms across the country’s 210 constituencies. The Social accountability dialogue meetings are meant to ensure that community leaders together with the local community work together for the development of their communities.

 

Community members in Rushinga have hailed the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) and Heal Zimbabwe for conducting a dialogue on peace and reconciliation on 25 October 2018.The NPRC is mandated by Section 252 (b) to develop and implement programmes to promote national healing, unity and cohesion in Zimbabwe and the peaceful resolution of disputes. The dialogue meeting brought together representatives from political parties (ZANU PF, MDC-T and People’s Rainbow Coalition), church leaders, Traditional leaders, government, police, youths, women from the 25 wards of Rushinga District. Bringing together community members and various government stakeholders is an important process of building trust between the government and the citizens while building bridges among victims and perpetrators of past human rights violations and conflict.

 

The main purpose of the dialogue meeting was to promote social cohesion, peaceful co-existence, healing and reconciliation among the people of Rushinga District. The dialogue allowed community members to reflect and discuss on key issues that hinder the prevalence of peace in the District. In his opening remarks, NPRC Commissioner Charles Masunungure, highlighted the importance of the dialogue and noted that it helps community members to identify key issues that require healing and reconciliation and further encouraged participants to openly discuss such issues.”As the NPRC we hope that this dialogue will afford people in Rushinga an opportunity to openly discuss reconciliation issues in Rushinga District. We are mandated by Section 252 of the constitution to conduct activities that encourage people to tell the truth and promote national healing and reconciliation, “he said. Heal Zimbabwe Executive Director, Rashid Mahiya also echoed Commissioner Masunungure’s sentiments and highlighted that building peace was everyone’s responsibility. He also noted that the NPRC was supposed to conduct robust programmes in local communities that will help build peaceful and reconciled communities.”Heal Zimbabwe works with Commissions such as the NPRC and other key stakeholders such as Traditional leaders to achieve meaningful healing and reconciliation. NPRC must continue to partner CSOs such as Heal Zimbabwe that has community structures in the country’s 210 provinces for greater reach and impact”, he said.

 

Issues that came out during the dialogue meeting include the partisan distribution of food aid by some Traditional leaders, political labeling and partisan conduct by government representatives in Rushinga District. Participants also noted that unresolved conflicts especially from past electoral episodes such as 2008 and 2002 political violence continued to hinder the prevalence of peace in the area. Legislator for Rushinga, Tendai Nyabani acknowledged that dialogue among political parties was key in conflict resolution and highlighted that the dialogue meeting had come at the right time.”Let’s us all strive to build peace. I want also to thank NPRC and Heal Zimbabwe for convening such an important dialogue in Rushinga”, he said. Traditional leaders who attended the dialogue meeting also bemoaned the lack of respect for the Traditional leadership institution highlighting that the role they play in healing and reconciliation is often downplayed even by political parties. The most recurring issue that came out was on the need for the NPRC to decentralize to ward level so that communities can easily report cases and engage the commission on key reconciliation issues in compliance with is Section 252 (f) of the constitution. The dialogue meeting concluded with the setting up of an Interim Peace Committee made up of diverse stakeholders who include representatives from local government, church, women, youths and political parties. The role of the peace committee will be to identify and mediate conflicts in the area through dialogue. The peace committees will also  receive training in conflict mediation which will help improve their capacity.

 

Heal Zimbabwe, as a peace building organization, values its partnership with the NPRC towards a healed, reconciled and peaceful Zimbabwe. In the past, Heal Zimbabwe has raised communities’ awareness on the need for national healing and reconciliation. The organization also trained and established community infrastructures for peace such as Peace Clubs and Community Early Warning Committees as steps towards sustainable peace within local communities.  Towards the 2018 elections, HZT through the National Peace campaign dubbed 13 Million Voices for Peace, campaigned vigorously on the need for peace before, during and after the 2018 elections. As the NPRC rolls out its 5 year strategy, HZT commits its support to the Commission and to  continue working with various stakeholders who include, churches, youth and students bodies and political parties to promote collective prevention of violence and conflicts as a strategy for promoting sustainable peace.

 

Heal Zimbabwe joins the rest of the world in commemorating International Day of Rural Women. The theme for this year is “Sustainable infrastructure, services and social protection for gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls”. This years’ theme places empowerment of rural women at the heart of fulfilling the vision of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Rural women are often exposed to all forms of abuse due to poverty, patriarchy and marginalisation.The main forms of violence against women that are experienced during times of conflicts relate (but are not limited) to theft, physical abuse and assault, psychological abuse, sexual harassment and sexual assault (including rape), reproduction violence which can be linked to sexual violence (such as unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortion, complications from high risk pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases) and exploitation such as overpricing of goods and services.

 The theme for this year is a clarion call for governments across the world to put in place infrastructure and services that ensure that rural women and girls are empowered and protected from abuse and vulnerabilities such as political violence. In pursuit of SDG 5 (that provides for Gender equality), Heal Zimbabwe has since its inception worked with rural women by establishing  community structures such as community peace clubs, Community Action Accountability Teams (CAATs)  and Women Safe Spaces for Reconciliation(WSSR). Through these community structures rural women have defied odds by rallying communities together for peace building initiatives such as collaborative neutral platforms (nhimbes) that help build social cohesion and peace in local communities. Rural women have also managed to engage with various community stakeholders such as Traditional leaders and local government structures to champion development and peace in their communities. With the assistance of HZT, the women have managed to mediate conflicts and conduct peace dialogues within their communities. The CAATs have also empowered women to participate actively in developmental issues such as budget consultations.

 On the occasion of this historic day, Heal Zimbabwe calls upon the Government to fully operationalize the Zimbabwe Gender Commission by availing adequate resources so that it can effectively fulfill its  constitutional mandate of “investigating possible violations related to gender and recommend prosecution for criminal violations of rights relating to gender”.

Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5 provides for Gender Equality, which is not only a fundamental human right, but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world. Providing women with platforms that help them engage Duty Bearers help improve their representation in political and economic decision-making processes.

 It is in pursuit of such a goal that a women led Community Accountability Action Team (CAAT) conducted a community interface meeting in Zaka ward 19 on 6 October 2018.The meeting offered an opportunity for community members to engage with duty bearers on critical human rights issues that affect their community. The meeting was attended by a total of 57 people (31 men and 26 women). Among them were 4 village heads, ward 19 Councillor, 2 teachers and 3 village health workers, Health Centre Committee members from  Jerera satellite clinic, Siyawareva clinic and St Antony (Musiso)Hospital.

 Issues discussed include unfair distribution of inputs, corruption and environmental pollution. Community members noted that these issues posed a serious threat to social cohesion and fuelled conflicts in communities.  Community members also noted that the unavailability of medication at most clinics fuel dissent and conflicts in the area. This is because health facilities provide a neutral meeting point to bring conflicting parties to discuss mutually beneficial interventions with the support of health workers who are ideally placed because of their professional and ethical position within the community. Community members also noted that access to quality health was a fundamental human right that is enshrined in Section 76 of the constitution. This provision states that, “Every citizen has the right to have access to basic health-care services, including reproductive health-care services”

 Community members also lamented the continued meddling of political parties in the distribution of Agriculture inputs and food aid. Community members resolved that ward Councillors were supposed to convene ward assembly meetings where the District Administrator will be invited and proffer solutions to a plethora of problems devilling the community. Further to this, Heal Zimbabwe will facilitate for affected community members to report cases to the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) and the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) in line with  Section 233(a) that compel independent commission to support and entrench human rights and democracy.

 A CAAT is a group of women and youths from diverse political and socio-economic backgrounds working together to build peace and demand social accountability from duty bearers. Heal Zimbabwe has in the past trained CAAT members in Community social accountability, governance and democracy. Interface meetings are just one of the strategies employed by CAATs to hold duty bearers to account and promote  community participation in democratic processes.

In a move that is aimed at improving leadership, accountability and good governance, Heal Zimbabwe has taken Social Accountability trainings to Tsholotsho North. On 27 and 28 September 2018, Heal Zimbabwe conducted a Policy engagement and accountability training for 25 duty bearers. The trainings are part of Heal Zimbabwe’s objective to enhance better social service delivery and improve transparency and accountability among local leaders. The Duty Bearers included 5 Traditional leaders, 4 Village Health Workers, 3 Disaster Risk Management committee members, 4 Communal Areas Management Programme for Indigenous Resources (CAMPFIRE) chairpersons, 4 School Development Committee (SDC) members and 5 Health committee members.

 The Duty Bearers noted that while Social Accountability was a key ingredient in the attainment of an accountable leadership, political interference especially on the work of Traditional leaders fueled unaccountable leadership.”While the constitution is explicit on constitutional roles of Traditional leaders (Section 281 (2)b)  that help entrench accountable practices, such as not acting in a partisan manner, political interference remains a serious problem”, said one Traditional leader. Duty Bearers also noted that while Section 75 and 76 of the constitution provides for the right to education and health, the realization and enjoyment of those rights remains a pipe dream. Added to this, Sustainable Development Goals 3 and 4 provide for good health and well being and quality education respectively. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) (or Global Goals for Sustainable Development) are a collection of 17 global goals set by the United Nations General Assembly as part of a wider 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”Most schools in Tsholotsho still bar children from attending lessons due to non-payment of school fees, even the school fees payment plan for most parents are too steep given the current economic situation. At the local clinic, there is no medication as the clinic authorities do not even inform the community on problems affecting the smooth operation of the clinic”, said one School Development Committee member.

 Some of the issues that came out during the training include community exclusion in key decision making processes thereby hindering effective participation and respect of human rights. Notable examples include partisan allocation of developmental projects which result in lack of trust and conflicts.  As a way forward, the Duty Bearers resolved to conduct dialogue meetings with SDCs and local clinic representatives where they can discuss issues that hinder the enjoyment of fundamental human rights and freedoms such as the right to education and health.

 Heal Zimbabwe will continue to conduct forums for interface meetings where duty bearers and community members dialogue and discuss on pertinent issues affecting their communities.

Heal Zimbabwe has intensified training of Duty Bearers across the country with the objective of inculcating key principles of leadership, accountability and good governance. From 22-23 September 2018, the organization conducted 2 social accountability trainings for 52 Duty Bearers in Buhera and Chipinge.

 Among the Duty Bearers who attended the trainings included Councillors, Village heads, irrigation farm committees and School Development committee members. The Duty Bearers hailed the organization for initiating such trainings and further highlighted that social care, respect for human rights and swiftness to resolve community problems are essential qualities of a good leadeship.The Duty Bearers further noted that being accountable  help  earn  respect and support which help stifle development in their communities.

 One of the participants, a Village Head from Chipinge added that since traditional leaders are custodians of cultural value especially the family, there was need to revive traditional social security mechanisms such as Zunde raMambo/Isiphala seNkosi to cushion disadvantaged families especially women and children from ultra poverty and other forms of vulnerabilities.”During difficult periods especially prolonged droughts, as Traditional leaders, we need to revive cultural practices such as Zunde raMambo so that we help vulnerable groups such as women and children”, he said. A School Development Committee (SDC) member from Buhera further implored leaders to remain guided by fundamental  human rights enshrined in the constitution  when serving and further highlighted that SDCs should prioritize and help in the promotion of  children’s right to education as espoused in Section 75 of the constitution whilst hospitals and Village Health Workers  should set targets in relation to the right to health care underlined in Section 76 of the constitution. “Likewise, leaders in those sectors should be free to be held to account to such constitutional provisions that help to safeguard the promotion and enjoyment of human rights”, he said.

 As a way forward the leaders resolved to continue upholding  principles of accountability and good governance as this helps to attain development. Heal Zimbabwe will continue to work with the 52 trained community leaders in ensuring that they effectively serve their constituencies, in a participatory, inclusive and transparent manner. It is to this effect that the organization has lined up a series of dialogue platforms that will improve issues of transparency and accountability. More Duty bearers’  trainings are lined up in areas such as Tsholotsho and Gokwe .

Community leaders in Zaka and Gutu have vowed to engage citizens in a bid to promote good governance and improve service delivery in local communities. This was revealed during a Duty bearer’s training workshop in Zaka and Gutu which was conducted by Heal Zimbabwe in partnership with Community Tolerance Reconciliation and Development (COTRAD) from the 12th to the 15th of September 2018. The major aim of the training was to capacitate duty bearers and raise awareness on their constitutional obligations as custodians of local communities in grassroots level policy engagement and accountability. The training was attended by a total of 48 community leaders who hold different portfolios within the local communities. The portfolios include 19 traditional leaders, 10 School Development Committee members, 6 Village health workers, 3 councillors, 2 clinic committee members, 1 Agritex officer and 2 Action for Accountability group leaders.

 The Duty Bearers trainings come at a time after community members were first trained in Social accountability and policy engagement and later initiated awareness raising campaigns that were conducted in various communities. The training saw duty bearers being capacitated in key concepts in social accountability in line with their roles and responsibilities. Issues raised during the trainings include lack of knowledge on the roles and responsibilities of community leaders which makes it very difficult for them to engage communities on key developmental issues within their communities resulting in human rights abuses, corruption and underdevelopment. Lack of knowledge especially on the roles and responsibilities of a leader,  be it a village head, councillor or SDC representative undermines service delivery and leads to human rights abuses”said  Zaka ward 33 Councillor Peter Imbayarwo. Participants also noted that lack of such knowledge also perpetuated a culture of misinformation among community members.

 Community leaders embraced the training and highlighted that it will go a long way in improving the capacity of leaders in service delivery. Major challenges raised include the interference of political figures such as Legislators and political parties in the execution of their duties which affect the smooth implementation of developmental initiatives. As such the duty bearers who attended the trainings recommended that similar trainings be offered to Legislators and Provincial Ministers so that they initiate policies that help curb vices such as corruption thereby   promoting transparency and accountability. Community leaders further resolved to conduct consultative and feedback meetings as part of raising awareness on social accountability and policy engagement.

 The trainings will assist Duty Bearers to improve their accountability and transparency mechanisms. As a follow up on the trainings, Heal Zimbabwe will facilitate forums for interface platforms where duty bearers and community members engage and dialogue on critical issues affecting their communities. The trainings in Gutu and Zaka are part of Heal Zimbabwe’s initiative to improve social service delivery and inculcate a culture where human rights are upheld across the country. The organisation will also conduct similar Duty Bearers trainings in areas such as Tsholotsho, Gokwe, Chipinge, and Makoni among other areas.

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Heal Zimbabwe joins the rest of the world in commemorating International Day of Peace. The commemorations this year are running under the theme, “The Right to Peace-The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 70”. The theme for this year celebrates the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides among many rights, the right to freedom from torture and access to justice. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is an elaborate document that was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on the 10th December 1948 in Paris.

 In his message on this an historic day, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, underscored the need for all nations to uphold the provisions enunciated in the UDHR.”“It is time all nations and all people live up to the words of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which recognizes the inherent dignity and equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human race. This year marks the 70th anniversary of that landmark document.” he said.

 Article 5 of the African (Banjul) Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights highlights that, “Every individual shall have the right to the respect of the dignity inherent in a human being and to the recognition of his legal status. All forms of exploitation and degradation of man particularly slavery, slave trade, torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment and treatment shall be prohibited”. Such a provision compels member states like Zimbabwe to cultivate a culture of upholding the fundamental human rights and freedoms such as freedom from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Chapter 232 of the constitution of Zimbabwe establishes Independent Commissions particularly the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) whose mandate as enunciated in Section 252 (b) is to “develop and implement programmes to promote national healing, unity and cohesion in Zimbabwe and the peaceful resolution of disputes”.

 Heal Zimbabwe commends the NPRC for embarking on national consultative meetings that sought to engage stakeholders on issues of national healing and reconciliation in the past, in fact, the critical need for a comprehensive healing and reconciliation process remains urgent.The snail’s pace with which the NPRC is carrying out its constitutional mandate such as ensuring post -conflict justice, healing and reconciliation is not only worrying but frustrating given that the nation is in dire need of healing and reconciliation. It is Heal Zimbabwe’s view that by now, NPRC would have commenced in earnest tackling key reconciliation issues such as Gukurahundi and the 2008 violence among others.

 On the occasion of the International Day of Peace, Heal Zimbabwe implores the NPRC to urgently address reconciliation issues that were raised by stakeholders during consultative meetings earlier this year. Added to this, the NPRC must swiftly move in to tackle contentious reconciliation issues such as Gukurahundi in compliance with Section 252 (c) of the constitution that stipulates that the NPRC must “bring about national reconciliation by encouraging people to tell the truth about the past and facilitating the making of amends and the provision of justice”

Heal Zimbabwe joins the rest of the world in commemorating the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances. This special day is commemorated annually on the 30th of August. The International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances was passed under resolution 65/209 on 21 December 2010 which expressed great concern on the rising cases of involuntary disappearances. This culminated into the adoption of the International Convention for the protection of all Persons of Enforced Disappearances where 30 August was declared as the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances. The Convention recognizes the right of victims and their families to know the truth regarding the circumstances and fate of the disappeared person.

 The commemoration of this important day serves to remind states on the need to enact specific laws that protect citizens against the crime of enforced disappearance. This can only be achieved through investigating reports of enforced disappearance and bringing those responsible to justice. Other obligations are rather of a preventive nature, such as the obligation to detain persons only in officially approved and monitored institutions in which all prisoners are registered and the absolute right to legal services through which a prisoner can be released from unlawful detention.

 Article 1 of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance highlight that “no one shall be subjected to enforced disappearance”. Enforced Disappearances remain a crime that is not only degrading but generate insecurity among affected persons. The African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) (also known as the Banjul Charter), a regional human rights instrument is also an instrument intended to promote and protect human rights and basic freedoms on the African continent. Article 4 of the ACHPR highlight that “human rights are inviolable” hence every human being shall be entitled to respect for life and integrity. Further to this, Article 23 of the charter also highlight that “all people shall have the right to national and international peace and security”.

 What is rather disturbing is that besides all these international and regional legal instruments that prohibit enforced disappearances, Zimbabwe as a nation with a long history of enforced disappearances has not ratified key conventions that speak to issues relating to state obligations in as far as prevention of enforced disappearance of citizens is concerned. Conventions that Zimbabwe is yet to ratify include the United Nations Convention against Torture or Inhuman or Degrading Treatment (CAT), the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons against Enforced Disappearances as well as the Rome Stature among others.

 To date, Pro Democracy activist, Itai Dzamara who was abducted on 9 March 2015, remains unaccounted for. The occasion of this year’s commemoration of this important day in Zimbabwe offers an opportunity for the Government to expedite the search for Missing persons particularly Itai Dzamara whose search was ordered by the High Court. Abductions remain a gross human rights violation that must be condemned as it is not only degrading but barbaric and a bad practice. Enforced disappearances remain a serious violation of human rights and a crime. Section 53 of the Constitution provides for Freedom from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Such fundamental human rights and freedoms are to be enjoyed by every citizen without selective application.

Heal Zimbabwe  condemns in the strongest terms the use of live ammunition by security services against members of the public who were protesting against alleged electoral theft. On the 1st of August 2018, Zimbabwe Republic Police had running battles with citizens who had marched to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission Headquarters (ZEC) as well as the National Elections Command Center housed at the Rainbow Towers Hotel where results were being announced. Along the way, the protestors clashed with the police who prevented them from entering the hotel resulting in a series of running battles. As the chaos intensified, soldiers were then deployed and dispersed the protestors by firing live bullets. In the melee that ensued, three people lost their lives, several injured and property was damaged. The Harare Central Business Centre descended into a war zone as security services used tear smoke to disperse protestors.

 While Heal Zimbabwe does not condone violence during demonstration especially by members of the public, the use of live ammunition by the security services is not only barbaric  and uncalled for but deplorable especially coming from security services who according to section 208 (2d) must not violate the fundamental rights and freedoms of any person. Heal Zimbabwe expected the security services to find peaceful and non-violent means to amicably resolve concerns raised by protestors. Added to this, the right to petition and demonstrate is explicitly provided for in Section 59 of the constitution.

 As the nation eagerly waits for the election results, Heal Zimbabwe implores citizens to exercise peaceful conduct and not resort to violence. Security services must also do everything within their power to ensure that they abide by the constitution which stipulates in Section 206 (a) that they must have utmost respect for the fundamental rights and freedoms and the democratic values and principles enshrined in the constitution. Political parties must also not incite their supporters to resort to violence but rather remain guided by the Peace Pledge that was signed by all political parties on 26 June 2018.  

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