|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.