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Gloomy outlook for March: Zimbabwe Peace Project


By Zimbabwe Peace Project

It never rains but pours


Zimbabwe faced one of its greatest tragedies in the month of March. Following several forecasts of an approaching cyclone that was reported likely to affect Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe, on 15 March Zimbabwe woke to a shockwave of devastation as Cyclone Idai engulfed parts of Manicaland, Masvingo, and Mashonaland East Provinces.

A horrific trail of destruction caused by the Tropical Cyclone plunged communities of Chimanimani and Chipinge into tragedy with a death toll of above 280 and still counting, while more than 500 people are still missing and 54,000 households in dire need of food, clothing, shelter, water and sanitation services. Zimbabweans united across political, ethnic and geographical divide in solidarity to support victims and families affected by this tragedy.

The cost of living rose sharply during the month leading to steep prices of basic commodities while the shortage of fuel exacerbated transport costs for commuters. The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) conducted a by-election in Bulawayo, Cowdray Park (Ward 28) on 30 March to fill a vacancy that had arisen following the death of the incumbent Councillor, Hapson Ncube, who died in December 2018. The Zanu PF candidate Kidwell Mujuru was duly elected as Councillor, a seat which was previously won by the MDC-A during the 2018 harmonised elections. The MDC fielded two candidates for the post; a manifestation of the rifts existing in the party.

ZPP recorded a total of 213 violations up from 196 recorded in February. The majority of violations reported and recorded were harassment, intimidation and threats, at approximately 52.6%. In Mashonaland Central and Mashonaland East provinces, some Zanu PF members and village heads forced community members to contribute towards Independence Day commemorations. In Mt Darwin North, Mukumbura wards 4 and 5, villagers were made to pay $3 RTGS per household and those who did not have money were asked to provide 2kgs of maize meal and an unspecified quantity of cooking oil. Discrimination constituted 16.9%, theft/looting 11.3%, assaults 8.9% and displacement 5.6 % of the total recorded violations.

The province with the highest number of violations recorded in March is Mashonaland Central with a total of 56 cases followed by Manicaland with 34 cases. Matabeleland North, Matabeleland South and Bulawayo provinces recorded the lowest number of reported cases with a collective of 12 violations.

Highlights of the month:

Cyclone Idai

The cyclone left a trail of destruction and according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), approximately 270,000 people were affected by the cyclone. Victims were left in need of shelter, food, clean water, health facilities and psychosocial support. A number of local, regional and international entities such as the United Nations, United Arab Emirates, IOM, Christian Aid and USAID came to the rescue of Zimbabwe by donating towards the victims of the cyclone. South Africa, in addition to assisting with financial and other aid also assisted with sniffer dogs to facilitate in efforts to find the missing.

Political leaders’ Cyclone Idai tour

Controversy surrounded the tour by leaders of the two main political parties in Zimbabwe, President Emmerson Mnangagwa of Zanu PF and Advocate Nelson Chamisa of the MDC. The visits were viewed by some sectors of the country as gestures to gain political momentum.

Politicisation of aid

ZPP noted the continued trajectory of partisan and politicisation of food aid even during the tragic Cylone Idai. For example, in ward 9 Chimanimani East at Chigwegwe Creche the local Councilor affiliated to Zanu PF and another party member denied Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) supporters relief aid as they stated that only victims loyal to Zanu PF would receive the aid. In ward 4, Guhune on 26 March 2019, four Zanu PF members were witnessed distributing relief aid along partisan lines, denying MDC supporters aid. On 25 March in ward 10 Chimanimani East the ward councillor and some unidentified Zanu PF members denied MDC supporters cyclone relief aid. This was even after the President had urged Zimbabweans to put partisan politics aside for the sake of the cyclone victims.

A ban

was imposed on Masvingo based Community Tolerance Reconciliation
and Development Trust (COTRAD) and Zimbabwe Association of Churches and Hospitals (ZACH) on 11 March by government through the District Administrator (DA) pending an investigation into their registration status.

This suspension came following the rise of the gatekeeper syndrome in communities experienced since February. The DA was attempting to exercise power through the suspension of these two organisations. The suspension was however overturned by the High Court on 20 March which pronounced that the DA’s office had no authority to suspend or ban operations of NGOs. This was a victory for CSOs who have often faced attempts to suffocate their operations by the government.

For example in 2004 government crafted an NGO Bill which endangered the existence of NGOs owing to its stringent requirements. The resolution by government to amend the Private Voluntary Organisation Act (Chapter 17:05) to make it comply with requirements of the Financial Action Task Force for combating money laundering and financing of terrorism could be attempts by the state to scrutinise funding sources of CSOs and determine who can and cannot fund NGOs’ work.

Demand for Independence Day commemorations contributions

was prominent in March as the country prepares for 18 April which marks Zimbabwe’s 39th Birthday. Villagers were mandated to contribute in cash or donate food stuffs. In Mashonaland East province the requested amount ranged between $1 and $3RTGS. Government departments were not spared from these demands. ZPP is in possession of a letter sent out by the Murewa District Administrator requesting financial assistance from government departments. Contributions would be channelled towards the Independence Day commemorations to be held at Nhowe Mission Grounds on 18 April.

Evictions and displacements

were reported in Kadoma at Hope farm on 13 March where 414 families were forcefully evicted. Victims claimed they possessed offer letters they received in 2001. The police who effected the evictions torched over 50 houses.

On 23 March, settlers at Twinland, Deseree, and Rooney and Bummie farms in Chakari were evicted and close to 200 people were left homeless. The displaced persons have built makeshift shelters as they await to harvest their crop. It is inhuman for a government to offer someone land in the first place and subsequently evict them without providing alternative shelter or land.

Intra-party violence

As the Movement for Democratic Change party prepares for its elective congress scheduled for May there have been violent scuffles at the ward and district election processes. Youths affiliated to the Secretary General Douglas Mwonzora and those sympathetic to the party President Advocate Nelson Chamisa have often clashed resulting in some elections being postponed.

For example on 22 March chaotic scenes were reported during the MDC ward elections in ward 19 Chitungwiza North at the late Mayor Alderman Phillimon Chipiyo‘s residence. Verbal altercations were reported between the Chamisa and Mwonzora factions as they failed to reach consensus on the venue to conduct the elections. The ward elections were then postponed following the conflict. On Saturday 30 March 2019 MDC supporters convened at Councillor Magadzire’s homestead in ward 16, Unit J Chitungwiza for a district election process for candidates who would contest at the elective congress.

Chitungwiza Provincial MDC Youth Chairperson Jabulani Mthunzi who is also Zengeza East ward 15 Councillor clashed with Zengeza East Legislator, Goodrich Chimbaira on the procedure of the elections. This resulted in violent skirmishes in which Mthunzi was assaulted by party youths affiliated to Chimbaira and was hit by Chimbaira’s vehicle. He was rushed to hospital for treatment.

Fuel queues

have resurfaced in many cities and towns as fuel is in short supply. In March petrol prices increased from $3.31 to $3.37 and diesel from $3.11 to $3.19. The shortages have hard hit the commuting public as the subsidised transport arrangement of ZUPCO and other buses is slowly disappearing leaving commuters stranded and vulnerable to abuse by commuter omnibuses and private players that hike fares as it suits them. In Harare fares have hiked by between 50 cents and $1.

Health sector implosion

In March Senior Doctors downed tools citing poor working conditions, lack of drugs and sundries and poor remuneration. In a televised broadcast on ZBC TV, the head of Parirenyatwa paediatrics division Dr Azza Mashumba broke down in tears as she emotionally pleaded for help for the institution. Dr Mashumba said, “We get into theatre, I am ready to receive the baby but I am given a still birth”. She further cited that there was no urgency, no priority and listening ear from the government. The doctor’s tears indicate the depth of the health issue and how it affects women. A dysfunctional health delivery system increases the burden of care on women as they will then have to take up the role of primary health care giving.

International Women’s day

On 8 March the world commemorated International Women’s Day under the theme #Balanceforbetter, where the world must seek for gender balance and wellbeing of women. Cyclone Idai which happened in the same month as the commemoration has impacted heavily on women. One woman in Chimanimani delivered her baby on a tree branch during the cyclone with her husband playing the role of midwife. Women and girls also face challenges of sanitary wear during such tragedies. The burden to care for the injured also lies on women and for those with babies they have to find alternatives to diapers. This is just but a drop in the ocean of how women are affected by such catastrophes.

Steps towards the national dialogue

The National Transitional Justice Working Group convened spaces to build momentum into the national dialogue discourse. On 26 March they convened a meeting titled “National Dialogue: The African Transitional Justice Experience- Lessons for Zimbabwe” where delegates discussed the readiness of Zimbabwe for the national dialogue. One of the speakers emphasised that if a national dialogue process is to succeed there must be a conducive environment that is characterised by respect and protection of freedoms and the absence of fear.

About the author

Byron Adonis Mutingwende