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Rebuilding relations destroyed by political violence

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Community efforts towards rebuilding relations destroyed by political violence continue to be hailed. Villagers in Buhera West meet regularly under the Heal Zimbabwe Trust’s Kugara Hunzwanana peacebuilding programme which was introduced in 2011.

The programme was a response to the realisation that after the 2008 political violence period, people in the same community and from different political parties had not been “seeing eye-to-eye” due to the tension and conflict brought by politically motivated violence.

The situation was made worse by the fact that the violence was between people of the same communities who continued to see each other more often. Victims and perpetrators tried to avoid each other but their proximity to each other made it difficult.

Heal Zimbabwe Trust realised that there were some traditional practices that could bring people together across the political divide and reclaim community peace that existed before the unfortunate 2008 violence.

It is sad that most of the cases of political violence in rural communities are initiated by outsiders, it might be politicians or State machinery, but it is the local people who are left to do the “dirty job” of writing names of perceived enemies and doing the actual beatings, killing of people and destroying their sources of livelihoods.

Informed by this, efforts to promote peace and stability in rural communities cannot be achieved if attempts are not made to mend torn relations between neighbours, family members, relatives and relations between ordinary villagers and their local leaders.

Communities need to continue to be reminded that community relations supercede political party relations, as the latter are periodic and only become relevant towards elections — where politicians just come to seek votes by all means necessary and as soon as elections are over, they vanish and it is perpetrators who are left alone to deal with consequences of victimising fellow villagers.

Villagers in Buhera formed peace clubs where they meet regularly and initiate peacebuilding activities in the area. Some of the activities that have been taking place in peace clubs are community weeding ceremonies, sport activities, burial societies and face the community interface meetings.

Membership cuts across all political divides and ages. Heal Zimbabwe attended four of these activities on Monday April 30 2012 and applauded villagers in wards 5 and 8 for their efforts towards rebuilding relations and trust among each other. It is clear that these efforts will go a long way in preventing future recurrence of violence which left 13 people dead in 2008 in Buhera district and hundreds more in the country.

Efforts by the grassroots can only be cemented by sincerity to uphold peace and stability on the part of political leaders. Heal Zimbabwe Trust continues with its call upon political leaders in Zimbabwe to walk the talk in their pledge to uphold peace before, during and after elections.

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