Traditional leaders call for peace and tolerance ahead of 2018 elections

Traditional leaders who attended collaborative neutral platforms (nhimbes) organised by communities that work with Heal Zimbabwe pledged to uphold peace and called for political tolerance ahead of the 2018 elections. This came out during nhimbes organised by peace clubs in Mutasa South, Gokwe North, Mazowe and Muzarabani North.

From the 10th to the 14th of May 2017, Heal Zimbabwe conducted a total of 16 nhimbes in Mutasa South (6 peace clubs), Gokwe North (5 peace clubs), Mazowe (4 peace clubs) and Muzarabani (1 peace club). The collaborative platforms included harvesting of crops, road gulley filling and clean up campaigns. The nhimbes brought together various community leaders who include 22 village heads, 2 councillors and 1 Headman, 7 Village health workers, 80 Village Health Development Committees (VIDCO) members. A total of 700 people attended the collaborative platforms. The nhimbes were conducted under Heal Zimbabwe’s National Peace Campaign, an initiative that seeks to raise public awareness on the need for peaceful participation in the upcoming 2018 elections.

Issues that came out during the nhimbes include political party internal fights which are fuelling conflicts in communities. Community members also noted that there has been an increase in monitoring and surveillance of human rights and development initiatives hindering the right to freedom of assembly and association.

Community members also noted that intimidation and unfair food aid distribution remain prevalent with the major perpetrators being village heads, councillors,  Headmen and political party youths. However, Traditional leaders who attended the nhimbes pledged to uphold peace and rally community members to participate in initiatives that help build peace and tolerance. This is despite the fact that the Traditional leadership institution has suffered heavy abuse at the hands of political entrepreneurs who abuse the institution to further selfish political agendas.

Traditional leaders especially in Muzarabani North and Mutasa were also grateful to Heal Zimbabwe for facilitating people to report cases of human rights violations to the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC). They noted that since the ZHRC visited their areas and investigated cases of human rights violations, they have noted a reduction in cases of human rights violations.

Nhimbes have over the years created platforms for community members to interface with duty bearers, deliberating on pertinent issues that affect social cohesion, peace and development. The platforms have also managed to resolve conflicts before they degenerated into open violence.

A Peace Club is a ward based community group of 20 people who come together to promote peaceful coexistence in their communities. Peace club membership is drawn from diverse local community members that include traditional leaders, church leaders, women, youth, business people, people with disabilities and village health workers.

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