Community members who are part of Heal Zimbabwe Community peace clubs have dismissed the Political Actors Dialogue (POLAD) as an elite driven process that excludes citizens. This came out during a Mashonaland central virtual dialogue on the Impact of Covid 19 on social cohesion in local communities that was conducted on 2 August 2021.
The objective of the dialogue meeting was to evaluate the impact of Covid 19 on local level peace building initiatives aswell as identify cases of human rights violations that were supposed to be referred to Independent Commissions supporting democracy such as the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC).Participants noted that while a national dialogue process was a positive steps towards addressing challenges facing the nation, its composition was exclusionary. “Some of the political parties in POLAD failed to garner meaningful votes in the 2018 plebiscite hence they cannot represent the interests on people”, said one participant from Mt Darwin. Participants also noted that the purchase of vehicles for POLAD members’ revealed government’s misplaced priorities and exposed the lack of sincerity in ensuring that there is a provision of social safety nets for vulnerable people during the pandemic.”We are in a pandemic and we need to rightfully channel every resource at our disposal as a country. What is the reasoning behind purchasing those top of the range vehicles for POLAD members yet here in Mbire our health facilities are not adequately resourced to provide efficient services during the Covid 19 pandemic”, added another participant. In light of this, participants recommended that there was need for government to create a genuine national dialogue process that has credible facilitation, sufficient political commitment and adequate inclusion.
The virtual meetings by Heal Zimbabwe are part of efforts to empower local communities to help safeguard against human rights abuse and also help build peaceful communities. Heal Zimbabwe utilizes various strategies to address conflicts in local communities. One of these ways is the use of community dialogues, an initiative for communities to discuss and collectively identify ways through which they can proffer solutions to problems in their communities. The platforms also equip communities with relevant information on Covid 19, Gender Based Violence (GBV) and human rights. Such platforms also facilitate local level conversations on pertinent issues affecting communities as well as create socially cohesive communities.