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  • Truth, justice, reconciliation and national healing - Index of articles

  • Organ struggles to find healing formula
    Caiphas Chimhete, The Standard (Zimbabwe)

    July 10, 2011

    The Organ on National Healing, Reconciliation and Integration (ONHRI) is still to develop a programme for psycho-social support and trauma counselling for victims of political violence, two years after it was set up. The revelation comes at a time when civic groups are reporting an upsurge in cases of intimidation and violence, which they blame on the widening rifts between MDC-T and Zanu PF.

    Last week the organ, a creation of the Global Political Agreement (GPA), ran adverts in the media seeking to recruit a consultant to develop a programme to promote healing, reconciliation and integration of victims of conflict.

    "In order to lay a stable foundation for sustainable reconciliation, peace building, reconstruction and development, ONHRI wishes to develop a framework to provide support to citizens to recover and rebuild themselves, their families, their communities in their psychological, mental health well being, spiritual as well as in physical terms," read the advert in part.

    Activists last week said the organ had been hijacked by "politicians who want to buy time".

    The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN), a coalition of 30 civic organisations, in its report for May and June expressed alarm over widespread harassment of MDC-T supporters by Zanu PF activists in the country.

    At times, it said, MDC-T supporters were force-marched to Zanu PF meetings.

    "In light of these observations, ZESN encourages political parties to seriously consider the spirit and letter of the GPA to promote national healing and reconciliation and not further divide people along political lines," ZESN said.

    To fill the void created by the organ's inaction, charity organisations are trying to fill the void.

    A local counselling unit last week said it was giving psychological support to an average of 200 victims every month since the 2008 elections. Some victims still come with injuries they sustained around that time, said a senior official with the unit.

    "There is slightly an increase in people coming for counselling but on average we record 200 cases a month," said the official.

    She said the majority of victims came from political hotspots such as Chaona in Chiweshe in Mashonaland central province, Mutoko and Mudzi in Mashonaland East province."

    5 550 violence victims assisted

    The Zimbabwe Christian Alliance (ZCA) says it has assisted over 5 550 victims in the past three years.

    Useni Sibanda, the ZCA coordinator attributed the huge number to the fact that Zimbabwe never promoted healing since the pre-independence era, Gukurahundi atrocities and the latest election violence.

    The churches are running community healing dialogue meetings and "healing of the memory" where victims share their experiences with each other. "We refer to the healing of the memory programme as 'positive vomiting' because you find out that people are relieved when they speak about the nasty things that happened to them," Sibanda said.

    Sibanda blasted the organ for its "very slow pace" while victims continued to suffer in silence.

    He called on government to enact an Act of Parliament that would put in place a framework for national healing that would allow free participation of civic organisations.

    Sibanda said: "Most of our activities are stopped by police due to the sensitive nature of the subject".

    Thousands more need urgent trauma support

    Rashid Mahiya, the national director of Heal Zimbabwe Trust said thousands of people were traumatised and needed support urgently.

    "They are failing to cope, some lost breadwinners and children witnessed their parents being beaten to death," he said. "Communities are traumatised out there."

    The trust has assisted 105 families since last June by providing counselling services.

    Mahiya believes the organ's operations were hamstrung by political parties that saw violence as the only way to win an election.

    The organ is represented by Vice-President John Nkomo (Zanu PF), the co-Ministers of State in the Organ for National Healing, Integration and Reconciliation Moses Mzila-Ndlovu (MDC-N) and Sekai Holland (MDC-T).

    Holland conceded that the organ's work was behind schedule but said they were working on a "water-tight policy document" that forbids violence and hate language.

    This document will be presented to an all stakeholders' conference in September.

    "We don't need to be rushed because we need people to understand what we want to achieve," she said.

    "Our job is not rushing where there is violence but to sensitise Zimbabweans about the importance of peace and reconciliation."

    But Sibanda said the organ either had no capacity or was unwilling to assist the victims.

    Christian Alliance has already covered Matabeleland, Midlands, Masvingo and Manicaland and parts of Mashonaland provinces.

    An estimated 20 000 people died in Matabeleland and Midlands in the 1980s, when President Robert Mugabe sent the North-Korean trained Fifth-Brigade ostensibly to track down dissidents in the two provinces.

    MDC-T claims that at least 200 of its activists were murdered during the 2008 elections.

    Just like the Gukurahundi massacres, the MDC-T points a finger at Zanu PF and state security agents.

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