Community members in Gokwe, Mutoko, Murehwa, Mazowe, Makoni and Mbire have expressed concern over the continued involvement of Traditional leaders in partisan politics. This came out during a series of collaborative neutral platforms conducted by Heal Zimbabwe under its national peace campaign from 13 March to 13 April 2018. The objective of the collaborative platforms (nhimbes) was to raise awareness on the need for peace and tolerance ahead of the 2018 elections.
The organisation through its 15 Community Peace Clubs, seven Women Safe Space for Reconciliation and two Community Based Organisations from the targeted districts mobilized community members to participate in nhimbes that included harvesting of crops, road gulley filling and clean up campaigns at schools and business centres. The nhimbes were attended by a total of nine Village heads, three Headmen, two Councillors, eight Ward Development Committee members (WADCO) and 11 Village Development Committee (VIDCO) members. A total of 880 community members were reached through the activities conducted. The nhimbes were conducted under Heal Zimbabwe’s National Peace Campaign: 13 Million Voices for Peace which seeks to raise public awareness on the need for peaceful participation in the upcoming 2018 elections.
Across the districts, community members who participated in the collaborative neutral platforms bemoaned the partisan nature of Traditional leaders which they noted as a hindrance to the attainment of peace and social cohesion. In some instances, Traditional leaders are forcing community members to submit serial numbers of voter registration slips and threatening to withdraw food aid from people who fail to comply. “We are living under fear here in Gokwe, Traditional leaders harass and intimidate us by threatening to deny us food aid from the Ministry of Social Welfare if we fail to submit serial numbers of voter registration slips”, said one community member from Gokwe.
Several community members who interacted with Heal Zimbabwe revealed that although they have reported some Traditional leaders to the local police, this has not deterred them as some are still carrying out the exercise. This is besides the fact that Section 281.1 (d) of the constitution points out that Traditional leaders must not; “violate the fundamental rights and freedoms of any person”. Community members further noted that because of the partisan nature of some Traditional leaders, communities were now living in fear and were worried that the secrecy of voting will be greatly compromised as elections draw near.
Heal Zimbabwe implores the Ministry of Local Government, Public works and National Housing to reign in on errant Traditional leaders who are meddling in partisan politics and violating fundamental human rights and freedoms of citizens. Added to this, Political parties must desist from abusing Traditional leaders but rather use them as avenues to build tolerance and social cohesion in local communities. HZT has since forwarded all cases of human rights violation to the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC).
A Peace Club is a ward based community group of people who come together to promote peaceful coexistence in their communities. Peace club membership is drawn from diverse local community members that include traditional leaders, church leaders, women, youth, business people, people with disabilities and village health workers.
Heal Zimbabwe commends Independent Commissions that support Democracy for setting up a special committee to deal with political violence.
Heal Zimbabwe applauds the move by Independent Commissions particularly the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC), National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to set up a special committee made up of independent commissions and the police to facilitate swift handling of political violence cases. HZT views such a move as positive as it helps to reduce cases of politically motivated violence as the nation prepares for the 2018 elections.
During an interview with the Sunday mail, ZEC Chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba said that: “The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has gone on record to condemn all forms of violence. We have also created dispute mechanisms to take care of that. “Political parties have a code of conduct which prevents them from electoral violence. They have agreed that they will enforce their own code of conduct. “The judiciary system has set up fast track courts that deal with politically motivated violence and we also need the police to investigate and send dockets to the courts on time. In fact, there are now special prosecutors and magistrates have been appointed to specially deal with such cases.”
Justice Chigumba further revealed that the new mechanisms help victims of political violence to report freely. “What we need to do is to disseminate information or people to report, because nothing can be done if a report is not made. The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission is also playing a key role. “We will do it at a coordinated approach and form a special committee. It will be done at a national level but we will cascade it to provincial and district levels and say this is what we will be doing, she said.
ZHRC deputy chairperson, Dr Ellen Sithole also underscored the willingness of the ZHRC to investigate cases of violence and deploy teams in communities. “The ZHRC also has an investigative mandate. The commission can investigate the conduct of any authority or person, where it is alleged that any of the human rights and freedoms set out in the Declaration of Human Rights (Chapter 4 of the Constitution) has been violated by that authority or person”, she said
Heal Zimbabwe notes that such efforts will go a long way to address political violence which has remained a permanent feature during elections. While Heal Zimbabwe views this as a positive step towards minimising politically motivated violence, it is imperative to note such arrangements must be followed by the full implementation of constitutional provisions such as Section 210 that protect citizens against abuse by members of the security services. This section provides for an Independent Complains mechanism with a responsibility to receive and investigate complaints from members of the public about misconduct on the part of members of the security services and for remedying any harm caused by such misconduct. Also of paramount importance is the fact that independent commissions must decentralise their activities to ward and village level so that their services can be accessed by local communities.
In light of this, Heal Zimbabwe implores independent commissions to continue working hand in glove with civic organisations since CSOs are extensively involved in monitoring, detecting and reporting timeously to cases of human rights violations.
Heal Zimbabwe commends the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) for conducting its nationwide stakeholder consultative meetings from 19 February -03 March 2018. The objectives of the consultation meetings were to: 1) enhance stakeholder awareness of the NPRC, its mandate and functions, 2) provide a platform for stakeholders to feed into and shape the strategic priorities of the NPRC and to 3) map the local and regional level capacities for peace, healing and reconciliation. The NPRC is one of the Independent Commissions established under Chapter 12 of the constitution with a mandate to ensure post-conflict justice, healing and reconciliation. The consultations came at a time after President Emmerson Mnangagwa signed the NPRC act into law on 05 January 2018.
To afford communities an opportunity to participate in national healing processes, Heal Zimbabwe mobilized its community peace structures to attend the stakeholder meetings. Some of the topical issues raised by HZT peace structures include the need for the NPRC to set up early warning and early response mechanisms for the early detection of areas of potential conflicts, decentralization of the NPRC and dealing with violent episodes such as Gukurahundi and 2008 political violence.
Below are some of the issues raised by HZT peace structures during the NPRC consultative meetings:
- NPRC must set up early warning and early response systems for early detection of areas of potential conflicts and disputes and take appropriate preventive measures
- The Commission must Decentralize to ward and village level.
- NPRC must raise awareness on the need for peace on radio and other media mediums.
- The NPRC must also share reports of its work with people at the local community level.
- The Commission must be independent when carrying out its mandate.
- Perpetrators of previous human rights violations must be prosecuted.
- NPRC must initiate dialogue among political parties on the need to prevent violence ahead of the 208 elections.
- Victims of past political violence must be compensated.
- The NPRC must put in place mechanisms such as psycho-social support for survivors of Gukurahundi who were raped, and tortured
- The independent Commission must ensure protection of survivors of political violence.
- NPRC must address Gukurahundi and initiate an inclusive healing and reconciliation process.
- Gukurahundi Mass graves such as those at Bhalagwe must be turned into national shrines.
Heal Zimbabwe commends the NPRC for engaging citizens to input into a healing and reconciliation framework. Of special mention is the acknowledgement by the NPRC that building peace is complex and long term hence deserves the input from different stakeholders such as civil society, religious groups among others.
HZT envisions a peaceful and prosperous Zimbabwe that celebrates diversity in local communities. The organization will continue to advocate for a bottom up approach to healing and reconciliation processes.
Heal Zimbabwe is gravely worried over the continued silence by Government over the missing of pro-democracy activist, Itai Dzamara. This is despite promises by Government to investigate and establish the whereabouts of Dzamara.
Heal Zimbabwe would have expected President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s Government to speed up investigations on the whereabouts of Dzamara but till today he remains unaccounted for since 9 March 2015 when he was abducted by five unidentified men while he was at a barber shop in the Glen View suburb of Harare. This is despite the fact that President Mnangagwa made a commitment at the Human Rights Council in Geneva in 2016 while he was still Vice President to launch a thorough investigation into his disappearance.
The fact that Dzamara continues missing and unaccounted for exposes Government’s insincerity in establishing his whereabouts. Dzamara just like any citizen deserves justice and the fact that he was abducted for democratically expressing his constitutional rights of petitioning and demonstrating is not only deplorable but inhumane. In addition, enforced abductions are illegal and are a violation of human rights freedoms and the Government’s constitutional mandate is to respect fundamental human rights and freedoms. To Heal Zimbabwe, enforced disappearance 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.
On the occasion of his third anniversary of his enforced disappearance, Heal Zimbabwe implores the Government not to renege on its promise to establish the whereabouts of Dzamara but demonstrate willingness to ascertain the whereabouts of missing activist, Dzamara. Added to this, government must open a commission of enquiry on the whereabouts of Dzamara and ensure that those responsible for his abduction are apprehended. Heal Zimbabwe implores the Government to stop using abductions as a tool to deal with political opponents. Heal Zimbabwe views dialogue as a critical component in solving conflicts and promoting peaceful coexistence amongst communities, thus Heal Zimbabwe calls the Government to use nonviolence mechanisms such as dialogue to address issues raised by its citizens.
Heal Zimbabwe joins the rest of the world in commemorating International Women’s Day. The theme for this year is “Press for Progress”. The theme underscores the need for communities to be gender inclusive and progress towards gender parity.
To commemorate this historic day, a Women Safe Space for Reconciliation (WSSR) established by a community that works with Heal Zimbabwe in Gokwe North conducted a collaborative neutral platform in the form of a nhimbe at Ukomo Primary School in Gokwe North ward 24 on 07 March 2018. The objective of the clean-up campaign was to raise awareness on the need for peace and tolerance ahead of the 2018 elections. In her address, Eunice Dzviriri, the WSSR chairperson highlighted that there was need for communities to spread peace and exercise tolerance right from the home. “…As a community, lets ensure that we propagate message of peace and tolerance given that the country will conduct elections this year, peace begins with us all…”, she said. In the past, the group has carried out income saving and lending schemes for women in a bid to propagate peace among fellow women in the community.
Heal Zimbabwe fully appreciates that women have performed important roles as peace negotiators and peace educators in both families and society. Such roles contribute immensely to peace building and build the capacity of communities to prevent violent conflicts. Women have also acted as mediators and trauma healing counsellors. Over the years, Women survivors of political violence that work with Heal Zimbabwe have defied community norms and values by taking a leading role in spearheading the promotion of community peace, healing and reconciliation initiatives across Zimbabwe.
To acknowledge that women are indeed key players in peace building, Heal Zimbabwe community structures such as WSSR, Community Accountability Action Teams (CAATs), Community Based Organizations (CBOs) and some Community Peace Clubs are led by women. These platforms create space for women to carry out small capacity building projects, mediate conflicts and discuss other pertinent issues that affect them.
International Women’s day is a day that is celebrated on 08 March every year. The day also celebrates women’s economic, political and social achievements. Heal Zimbabwe will continue working with women to fully empower them to take leading roles in building peace and development in their areas. International women’s day offer an opportunity to celebrate the remarkable role played by women in building peace and social cohesion in their communities.
Heal Zimbabwe is gravely concerned by the use of violence by the police to disperse protesting National University of Science and Technology (NUST) students on 26 February 2018. The students were protesting over the continued strike by lecturers which was affecting their academic studies.
As a way of responding to the protest, police used tear smoke canisters and water cannons to disperse students. The police also unleashed dogs on the unassuming students injuring several of them. A total of 61 students were arrested. Heal Zimbabwe notes that crushing peaceful demonstrations using brute force is not only barbaric but unconstitutional. Freedom to petition and demonstrate is provided for in Section 59 of the constitution that stipulate that, “every person has the right to demonstrate and present a petition.”
Heal Zimbabwe urges the police to desist from resorting to arbitrary arrests as a means of crushing demonstrations but rather find peaceful and non-violent means that help address concerns raised by protestors. Heal Zimbabwe also implores college authorities to find amenable solutions to students concerns and adhere to democratic principles such as creating safe places of higher learning where students enjoy their fundamental human rights and freedoms.
Heal Zimbabwe further calls for the setting up of an Independent Complaints mechanism as provided for in section 210 of the Constitution. The Complaints mechanism is responsible for receiving and investigating complaints from members of the public about misconduct on the part of members of the security services, and for remedying any harm caused by such misconduct.
On 10 October 2017, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), launched a blitz Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) exercise across the country. The blitz was a follow up to the launch of the BVR by former President, Robert Mugabe on the 18th of September 2017. Several Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) including Heal Zimbabwe noted that the process was rolled out against a background where there was lack of robust voter education around the new voter registration exercise exposing the process to manipulation by politicians.
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Heal Zimbabwe condemns in the strongest terms the use of violence against innocent civilians and journalists by the police which resulted in loss of life and injuries in Harare last night. On 22 February 2018, police officers had running battles with vendors and kombi drivers following a ban by the Ministry of Local Government prohibiting kombis from entering the central business district (CBD). This resulted in the police using teargas canisters and firing live bullets on unarmed civilians. A total of three civilians lost their lives and many injured. Three journalists were also injured trying to cover the incident. Heal Zimbabwe perceives such act of barbarism as sad and uncalled for especially coming from law enforcers.
This incident clearly indicates that community members and citizens are not safe especially from the police who are supposed to protect them. Heal Zimbabwe also perceive the attack on journalists as a reversal of democratic rights provided for in the constitution under section 61 which guarantees freedom of expression and freedom of the media.
Heal Zimbabwe implores the Government under the Ministry of Local Government Public Works and National Housing, the police and Harare City Council to find peaceful ways of resolving the impasse emanating from the ban of kombis. The organisation further calls for justice to be served and ensure that the culprits responsible for the killings are arrested and brought before the courts.
Heal Zimbabwe in line with section 210 of the constitution calls for the Government with immediate effect to set up an Independent Complaints Mechanism for receiving and investigating complaints from members of the public about the misconduct on the part of members of the security services, and for remedying any harm caused by such misconduct. Heal Zimbabwe notes that if such acts of aggression continue unabated, they threaten peace, social cohesion and cast doubt on the eligibility of the state to protect its own citizens.
Heal Zimbabwe welcomes the appointment of new National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) Chairperson, Retired Justice Selo Masole Nare by President Emmerson Mnangagwa on 20 February 2018. Justice Nare replaces the late Cyril Ndebele, who passed away on 07 October 2016 in Bulawayo.
Heal Zimbabwe views the appointment as progressive as it will ensure that the NPRC commences its urgent constitutional responsibility of ensuring post conflict justice, healing and reconciliation. Cognizant of the fact that Zimbabwe continues to witness cases of politically motivated violence which manifest in different forms, the role of the NPRC in building peace as the country prepares for the 2018 elections will be key.
HZT would also want to urge the NPRC to use a bottom up approach to issues of healing and reconciliation by accommodating views from communities gathered especially during the NPRC bill hearings in 2016 and 2017 and also views emanating from the public consultative meetings currently taking place in provinces. This will allow communities to play a leading role in issues of healing and reconciliation within their localities. HZT also implores the NPRC to quickly furnish all Stakeholders and Zimbabweans in general with the NPRC Plan of Action so that citizens are informed and better prepared to engage the peace Commission.
Heal Zimbabwe strongly condemns the intraparty political violence that took place during at the burial of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) President Morgan Richard Tsvangirai in Humanikwa Village, Buhera on 20 February 2018. A group of youths attacked Vice President, Thokozani Khupe and the party’s Secretary General, Mr Douglas Mwonzora accusing them of fanning divisions in the party. Heal Zimbabwe is equally concerned over the ill-treatment and harassment of both Tsvangirai’s widow, Mrs Elizabeth Macheka Tsvangirai and his mother Gogo Tsvangirai by some party members during the funeral.
Heal Zimbabwe subscribes to the principle of non-violent resolution of conflicts and views tolerance of divergent political views as a key ingredient in the attainment of peace and social cohesion in the country. In light of this, Heal Zimbabwe implores the MDC-T to find amicable and peaceful means to address conflicts within the party. Heal Zimbabwe notes that if such conflicts remain unresolved, they can compromise prospects for peaceful elections.
Heal Zimbabwe also implores Political parties to remain guided by the provisions of the Electoral Code of Conduct for Political Parties which stipulates that NO political party or any of its members or supporters, and NO candidate or any of his or her supporters, may:
(a) use violence, or threaten violence or incite or encourage the use of violence, against anyone on account of his or her political opinions or membership or support of a political party or participation in the election;
(b) intimidate, or incite or encourage the intimidation, of anyone on account of his or her political opinions or membership or support of a political party; act in a way that may provoke violence or intimidation;
Heal Zimbabwe implores the police to apprehend and enforce the law by bringing to book all perpetrators of violence. Heal Zimbabwe also urges political parties to reign in on their supporters so that they desist from perpetrating violence.