Tracking The Genealogies Of Societal Violence And Its Manifestations In Zimbabwe

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By Nomazulu Thata

Investigating the Liberation war and post war timelines 1960 – 1987

Zimbabwe is a country marred by a myriad form of violence. The entry point in this article is to establish the genealogies of structural violence of generations that manifested itself into other forms of violence giving a closer attention to liberation timeline and the Gukurahundi genocide of the early independence.

To give an adequate answer to this question is to succinctly unpack processes of colonialization and comprehensive analysis of the liberation struggle of today’s Zimbabwe and understand various forms of structural and social violence in that context.

The colonialization of today’s Zimbabwe was possible using force and separate development on grounds of race. The colonial rule set up a state-sponsored form of exclusion; these historicity’s mark and add to the legacy of violence on one hand.

Again, on the other hand, Zimbabwe has a historicized pre-colonial ethnic war narrative of generations. The entrenched structural violence is a manifestation of inherited violence, which again has metastasized in social violence.

Spontaneous eruptions and outbursts of state-owned violence has become common in Zimbabwe. In all societal settings the pain and scars of violence are visible: Ordinary life has become characterized by violence. Even in the absence of socio-economic challenges, structural violence such as genocide was committed in Zimbabwe in the early independence of 1980 also known as Gukurahundi genocide atrocities.

The series of entrenched structural violence has passed over to the social spheres of life: domestic violence, brutal ritual killings of children, corrective violence including corporal punishment in schools, rape on children as medicinal therapy to HIV/AIDS, regular petty killings, and various other forms of violence at interpersonal and intrapersonal social settings.

Structural violence, itself a by-product of past historicity of violence, manifest in various forms including poverty, societal, and class inequalities. Zimbabwe has about 95% unemployment, becoming one of the poorest countries in the world. An estimate of 9 million people is abjectly poor. Structural violence diminishes the origin of poverty, sickness, hunger, and pre-mature death resulting in non-accountability to these social evils bedeviling the country: said one anthropologist. Poverty puts the political economy of the country a fertile breeding ground to social violence of other forms.

However, this paper seeks to address the historicity of violence through a series of vignettes about the liberation war period. The collective experiences and voice in the liberation timelines will usher complex understanding of atrocities committed during the liberation struggle.

These exclusive wartime interviews, experiences are unique in exemplifying violence amid social uncertainties withing the liberation movements. The insight in these archival documentations, oral narratives of the liberation struggle, newspapers, interviews about Zimbabwe’s liberation war will qualify and amplify the consequences of war in subsequent societal developments.

The intension to give more attention to war time experiences is to unpack hidden war crimes that still insist in the minds of combatants: the active use of various forms of violence as punishment including deaths of gruesome nature against vulnerable women and men in liberation movements will be discussed. Macro and micro recruitment drive to join the war of liberation: cohesion or coercion becomes the central focal point of crimes committed withing the liberation movements itself.

At macro-level, the black population was motivated to commit violent acts of war in the name of furthering a penchant for nationalist liberation, that desire to be liberated embodies the ideas of freedom, democracy, and equality: a collective enterprise. At the micro-level, the reasons to go to war were disparaging.

There are myriad of personal reasons too. Most common was the abductions of peasants in war zones, women were “useful elements” in the fight for freedom: some men and women were even criminals who averted justice in Rhodesia back then. But again, poverty in rural areas, famine due to drought and increasing inequalities were other reasons to leave the country and go to war of liberation in neighbouring Zambia and Mozambique.

Delving into the synthesis of excessive violence in liberation war times is to place violence in the centre of liberation war and freedom perspective, undermining the gains of liberation and independence adversely. This will raise massive controversy in both liberation movements Zapu  and Zanu  as the reasons of going to the liberation war are diametrically variant.

Violence presents serious issues that affect social, economic, and political development in southern Africa. For this reason, this research work seeks to elaborate perspectives on how violence is remembered, transmitted, forgotten, not addressed, and addressed in the course of Zimbabwean history. In addition, this research hopes to contribute to studies on systemic and structural violence, addressing the topic in a more anthropological term, contributing to the prevention and minimization of violence in our societies, consciously avoiding the risk of being transferred across generations.

Key words: Structural violence, Social violence, Liberation struggle, manifestations of violence.