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Perpetrator apologizes to community at Zaka traditional cleansing ceremony
Heal Zimbabwe Trust
December 07, 2010

Saturday, the 4th of December was a hive of activity in Zaka district when village heads in Ward 24 under Chief Bota carried cleansing ceremonies in memory of victims of the 2008 political violence. The ceremonies were coordinated by Chief Bota and the village heads who invited all the villagers in their respective jurisdiction. The rituals created a rare platform for victims and perpetrators to come together under one banner of building a unifying society without political slogans. All motivated by the fact that formal court structures up to the supreme court cannot deal with cases of spirit appeasement agreed to put the onus on traditional leaders to cleanse their communities as there is a historical belief that failure to do so will result in bad omen on both the perpetrator and the community at large.

When the village heads announced the initiative to the villagers, they were quick to provide labour and also made donations in the form of rapoko for brewing the traditional beer for the ceremony. The process of making pledges is unifying as villagers have a sense of ownership of the whole process. The ceremonies started on Friday night where villagers spent the night dancing and in the process the spirit mediums led the process of appeasing the spirits of those who died during the political violence period. The rituals continued into the early hours of Saturday.

Villagers had the whole day of Saturday to discuss pertinent issues affecting peace in their respective communities. Speaker after speaker stood up and castigated the use of any form of intimidation and violence during election periods especially by outsiders. There was an outstanding case of Amos (not his real name) who stood up on a gathering of close to 150 village members and apologized to one of the youth in attendance stating that during the 2008 political violence he was sent by base commanders to abduct him and he together with nine other guys followed the victim to a funeral but failed to locate him. Tichaona (not his real name) had already been informed of his trailers and had to flee the area. Heal Zimbabwe applaud this as a positive step towards peace building initiatives. The villagers capitalized on the event and pledged to create peace clubs where they want to come together as a community and initiate strategies they can use to protect each other in the event of political violence.

It is the responsibility of the Government to spearhead the national healing process but to date nothing has materialized as a step towards the healing process. The delay by the Government to make a break through to initiate the process is hampering peace building activities being initiated at the community level as most ring leaders of political violence snub such processes knowing that they have a cover from some Government officials. The absence of comprehensive national healing framework has denied opportunities for perpetrators of political violence and torture to interact and ask for forgiveness from their neighbors and victims at community level. The combination of psychological torture of perpetrators, traditional beliefs and superstition of the avenging spirits has informed traditional leaders to call for traditional cleansing ceremonies to mend relations between victims and perpetrators and appease the spirits for the innocent loss of lives during the political violence period.


It is one of the most interesting ideas related to community development. It builds on the concept that the soul is significant in building community capacity. One way to build community capacity is through rituals because they involve acknowledging, relating, healing and celebrating. Rituals can also provide stability and promote a sense of solidarity and cohesion. Creating space for rituals may be an avenue to rebuilding fragile communities. Ritual is integral to rural life in Zimbabwe, from the daily calls to prayer to the wedding celebrations every weekend. Daily rituals, annual celebrations, they create space for communities to exchange information, build trust and community, and reaffirm their identities. While the GPA was signed more than two years ago, there remains a desperate need for Zimbabweans to process their experiences and heal. And rituals like this celebration seem like one step towards healing.

Traditional leaders in Zaka have seen the need to come up with community activities that keep community relations intact in the face of adversity. The presence of war veteran leader, Jabulani Sibanda in Masvingo province left villagers in shock after being force marched to meetings where all sorts of threats to their lives were made if they ever voted for the opposition. The Ritualisation process comes in the wake of support rendered to after Heal Zimbabwe assisted families of victims of political violence in carrying out memorial services for the deceased and supported the surviving families to run low cost income generating projects in Zaka and other districts around Zimbabwe.

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