Human rights advocacy organisation Heal Zimbabwe Trust (HZT) has launched a peace campaign titled As One ahead of the 2023 general elections. The campaign comes at a time of multiple reports of political violence in Murewa and Bindura.
The campaign was launched in Zaka’s ward 19 at village head Siyawareva’s homestead during a “Nhimbe” — a gathering of people in the community to help with farm work, in a bid to get people of diverse political parties and leaders in one place and spread the gospel of peace.
“We have launched this campaign in Zaka to encourage peace among all people of this community of diverse political backgrounds. We chose the phrase As One because it speaks to unity and oneness. For example, at our activity today, we brought people from different political backgrounds but we did not use those as labels to differentiate and dissociate from each other. We are family before we are members of political parties,” said Tapiwanashe Chiriga of Heal Zimbabwe.
The countryside is a perennial hotspot of violence perpetrated by mainly ruling party thugs who lack tolerance for divergent political views. This has made participation of women in politics limited. People are frogmarched to support ruling party candidates, thereby infringing on the rights to association and assembly.
During the 26 March 2022 by-elections a lot of opposition Citizens’ Coalition for Change gatherings were disrupted by suspected Zanu PF suporters. In the Midlands, controversial cleric Abton Mashonganyika was recorded advocating the death of opposition leader Nelson Chamisa and his family.
Heal Zimbabwe says the politics of hate have no place in the country. Village head Mukachana (Alex Moledge) welcomed the camapign, saying it will help heal all those that fell victim to the past acts of violence.
“Remember the former President of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe used to say I have forgiven all those that jailed me and all those that tortured me during the war, but this forgiveness was not victim centred. If we look at our liberation war heroes they did not even get counselling despite having toiled in the armed struggle for a long time. Had they gottten counselling, in this day we would not have problems of violence to force during elections,” said Mukachana.
He adds that had the advocacy around peace happened earlier, issues of political violence could have been avoided.
“If such programmes came earlier, we would not have experienced violence during elections because all people need is teachings on how to forge ahead peacefully,” he added.
His sentiments were echoed by ward 19 councillor Peter Imbayarwo who said the community meetings not only help spread the gospel of peace but even information dissemination and solutions to problems haunting the community such as drug abuse.
“During the activity we get to talk about other issues on development and the conversations are incomplete without discussions on our children who have been living under the influence of drugs. So we proffer solutions at these gatherings,” said Imbayarwo.
Chiriga added that firstly the people of Zaka need to register to vote so that their candidates of choice regardless of political affiliation stand a better chance of winning.
“Under this campaign we would like to encourage everyone who is 18 years old and above to register to vote. We emphasize that as Heal Zimbabwe we cannot tell you who to vote for, but we encourage individuals should choose the party which they are comfortable to be affiliated to, because voting is our only chance we have to choose our leaders. We need to do this minus intimidation and fear to the electorate and the candidates that seek election and their campaigners,” added Chiriga.
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has just finished a mop-up voter registration exercise to cater for all those who missed the chance to register in previous blitzes.