In a move that is aimed at ensuring that peace and tolerance prevails ahead of elections, Heal Zimbabwe through its National Peace campaign dubbed,”13 Million Voices for Peace” scaled up its collaborative neutral platforms. The platforms sought to encourage political parties, youths and ordinary citizens to uphold peace and tolerance ahead of the 2018 plebiscite.
From 21-28 July 2018, the organization initiated a series of collaborative platforms that include road shows, Sports for Peace concerts and peace concerts. The concerts provided an opportunity for aspiring candidates to pledge for peace publicly and that commit to shun political violence. Heal Zimbabwe initiated peace concerts in Bulawayo, Harare, Gwanda, Gweru, Chipinge, Zaka and Gokwe. Several aspiring candidates from various political parties appreciated the importance of peace and vowed to uphold it during their rigorous campaigns. To date, the organisation through its early warning and early response committees has noted that several aspiring candidates in areas where the organisation initiated peace concerts such as Gokwe, Zaka, Chipinge and Bikita have preached peace during their campaigns.
Added to this, through Youth Sports for Peace tournaments, community peace clubs engaged youths from various political parties who participated in sports for peace tournaments. Peace tournaments were conducted in Tsholotsho, Gokwe, Murehwa, Mutoko, Zaka, Chipinge, Mutasa, Makoni, Rushinga, Bikita and Gutu. At these tournaments, youths were able to build tolerance and discussed its importance ahead of elections. The need to engage youths for peace initiatives was informed by the fact that in past elections, youths have been used as merchants of violence by politicians. Community Peace clubs have reported that youths from various areas where peace tournaments were conducted, have embraced peace tournaments and have been carrying out regular sports for peace tournaments in a bid to build peace ahead of the elections.
As a way of responding to reports from various local communities where they fingered some Traditional Leaders as perpetrators of human rights violations ahead of elections, the organisation conducted several Traditional leaders trainings in areas such as Mazowe, Muzarabani, Mbire, Bikita, Zaka, Mutasa and Mutoko. The objective of the trainings were to conscientize Traditional leaders on the importance of peace and their constitutional responsibilities such as not violating the fundamental human rights and freedoms of any person as enunciated in Section 281 (d) of the constitution. Generally, some of the Traditional leaders highlighted that the incessant pressure from some political parties forced them to engage in human rights violations and further highlighted that in some cases they have been threatened that if they fail to comply with directives, they were going to lose their posts. The majority of traditional leaders promised to encourage people within their villages to promote peaceful coexistence.
As the nation goes for polls tomorrow, Heal Zimbabwe continues to call on political parties to shun violence and adhere to principles set out in the Political Parties code of conduct that criminalize acts of intimidation and violence. Political parties must also enforce the peace pledge that was facilitated by the NPRC in a bid to promote collective prevention of violence and conflicts as a strategy for promoting lasting peace. Heal Zimbabwe through its national peace campaign dubbed, 13 Million Voices for Peace will continue to campaign rigorously for peace even after the 2018 plebiscite.