By Leopold Munhende
Rushinga: VILLAGERS in this politically volatile Mashonaland Central area have accused their traditional chiefs and headmen of being at the centre of electoral violence episodes and related violations witnessed during past elections.
They were speaking Thursday at an emotionally charged consultative meeting with the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) in Rushinga.
The meeting, attended by over a hundred villagers, was organised by rights based civic group, Heal Zimbabwe Trust.
Villagers took turns to accuse partisan traditional leaders of instructing their subordinates to ensure some known opposition supporters were denied food aid.
This, they said, also left them at the mercy of some violent Zanu PF activists.
“MDC supporters are not getting anything here in Rushinga,” said one villager who only identified herself Mrs Marodza.
“There is no peace here. There is no freedom. Do not believe lies. We hope whoever will convey our grievances to the President will make this clear to him.”
Marodza said it was common for headmen to deliberately exclude some known opposition supporters when inviting people to community meetings where food and other hand outs would later be distributed.
“Things are hard and our children are going to school on empty stomachs,” she said.
Similarly, Samuel Mapendere, a victim of the 2008, 2013 and 2018 election related violence, said he feared for what was going to happen to them when the peace commission left the area.
“The NPRC is trying to heal our wounds but the moment they leave this place, we will be at loggerheads with these people like we were in 2008.
“I am only saying this because you are here…our chiefs are the ones who promote politically motivated violence. I do not know where that evil spirit comes from. I hope the NPRC can help us stop this evil.”
Villagers also demanded the direct involvement of political parties and government during aid distribution programmes to avoid abuse.
Earlier on, Chief Rusambo, Gladmore Kangora had accused villagers of lacking basic respect for their traditional leaders.
“If we are to look at Zimbabwe’s political landscape, we treat all members as subordinates and children of the chief yet they abuse us, insult us and call us names; maybe it is because of too much education but that is what is happening,” Chief Rusambo said.
Heal Zimbabwe Trust executive director Rashid Mahiya said his organisation was prepared to go the extra mile to ensure scars of Zimbabwe’s past human rights atrocities were healed.
“There are a lot of people within the country who need us to heal their wounds. We want peace and also to solve this current problem we are facing,” Mahiya said.
He also blamed politicians for inciting violence among their followers.
A district committee was later set up by the NPRC and will oversee dialogue between victims and perpetrators of past atrocities amongst other things.
Mashonaland Central province witnessed the worst of politically motivated violence during the period leading up to the 2008 presidential run-off elections.
The MDC says more than 200 of its followers were killed in what could rank as the most violent electoral period since the 1980s Gukurahundi massacres in Matebeleland and Midlands provinces.