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Communities Equipped with Conflict & Violence Prevention Skills.

Heal Zimbabwe recently embarked on a series of trainings to equip communities with violence prevention and conflict management skills. Between the 2nd of February and the 5th of March 2016, Heal Zimbabwe trained 1 204 grassroots peace builders from 67 Peace Clubs operating in 15 selected districts in Zimbabwe namely; Mutasa, Tsholotsho, Zaka, Chipinge, Makoni- Headlands, Buhera, Mbire, Gutu, Bikita, Gokwe North and South, Murehwa, Mutoko and Mazowe and Muzarabani.

The trainings brought together duty bearers and rights holders, under one roof, to learn and share skills that promote community cohesion, reconciliation and positive social transformation. Among the participants were 569 women, 417 youths, 210 traditional leaders and 311 church leaders. They were all equipped with knowledge of how to utilize indigenous mechanisms such as Nhimbes/Amalima, Dialogues (Dare), youth sports tournaments and women’s social clubs to promote reconciliation and peace in their communities. Conflict mapping, prevention, mitigation, peace building and stakeholder mapping skills are some of the topical areas that the participants learnt. The Peace Club members were also equipped with skills to spearhead HZT activities with minimum and in some instances no supervision from the HZT secretariat. The organisation believes that peace building initiatives that are home grown and facilitated by the community members themselves with little external supervision are more acceptable by the generality of the villagers who comprise people from various social and political persuasions. HZT envisions the transformation of peace clubs into full fledged Community Based Organisations in the long run.

Traditional leaders such as Chief Mutema of Zaka, Chief Chiriga and Chief Jinjika of Gutu, Chief Bota of Zaka, Chief Muchatisi of Makoni and Headman Mushoshoma from Guruve who participated in the trainings observed that most conflicts facing communities are triggered by socio-economic factors which are later transformed into political violence. Village Head Azula from Ward 5 in Tsholotsho said “….In most cases conflicts found in this community are social, but they get converted into politics if not addressed. Therefore, peace clubs must help to prevent some of these conflicts from developing into catastrophic  ones….” Church leaders such as Pastor Muziyawo Birchenough Bridge –Apostolic Faith Mission also added that “….All church believers must preach the gospel of peace as God commanded peace to all nations….” These echoes place the church as a pivot for peacebuilding within communities.

To prevent and mitigate socio-economic conflicts that at times degenerate into political violence, Heal Zimbabwe established Peace Clubs in diverse communities most affected by conflicts and violence with a view to build the capacity of local people to promote community cohesion, prevent and transform conflicts and advancing peaceful coexistence. The Peace Clubs include local citizens and duty bearers such as traditional leaders, Councillors and Church leaders who are motivated to work together for the common good of their society.

Our grassroots peacebuilding efforts come at a time the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) operationalisation is shaping up. However, while we applaud the Government for appointing and swearing in the NPRC Commissioners, we bemoan the delays in enacting an enabling legislation that sanctions its much awaited operation. We impress upon the Government to widely consult the people for the best output towards the NPRC legislation.