Roadshows for peace, political tolerance

WEDZA - Donning a straw hat to avoid the scorching heat, Bothwell Chimanga, 19, stood mesmerised as a group of dancers from Harare gyrated on a makeshift stage in between peace speeches at Wedza centre.

Chimanga was part of hundreds of villagers of Wedza township dwellers who dumped their afternoon businesses to be at the bus terminus to witness a roadshow organised by Centre for Community Development in Zimbabwe (CCDZ).

Roadshows are some of the strategies being used by CCDZ to reach the public.

Phillip Pasirayi, CCDZ director said: “This is one of the strategies that our organisation is using to mobilise citizens to register and exercise their right in the forthcoming harmonised elections. It is also a platform for citizen advocacy and input in national processes; through roadshows we are able to reach a larger number of people at grassroots levels who do not have access to information.”

Pasirayi said they are targeting those areas that were affected by political violence and were declared no go areas in previous elections. “CCDZ is also using the roadshows to promote peace and political tolerance in the next elections,” he said.  

A number of unemployed youths made the crowd at Wedza centre in Mashonaland East.

Chimanga said: “I am unemployed and people of my age group are often coerced by money to engage in violent acts during election time. This road show is good because I will remember the dances and automatically remember the speeches.”

Wedza was a political hotspot in previous elections but at the moment the community has a semblance of peace. Phineas Muzondo, chairperson for CCDZ in the community, warned that people should not be hood-winked by the apparent peace prevailing in Wedza as tables may turn anytime when election dates are announced.

However, CCDZ is making efforts to instil peace in Wedza to quell violence during election time.

“At the moment we are enjoying peace but the village heads are intimidating people asking them to remember 2008 if they vote wrongly. During the past referendum certain people hid in the bushes along paths leading to the polling stations asking village voters to write their names down before voting. That was a way of intimidation,” said Muzondo.  

Councillor Mary Sharaunga of Makwarimba ward in Wedza North applauded CCDZ for holding a roadshow that was intended to encourage citizen participation in the coming elections.

“This road show will remain in the minds of villagers for a long time and they will always remember the peace theme.”

The roadshow was a success according to Tinashe Chatira, senior programmes officer for CCDZ.

She said:  “It was a major success. We have managed to bring members of different political parties at a platform for peace. We managed to attract different people because of our edutainment thrust. We spoke of peace at the same time entertaining the crowd.”

Chatira was happy that their major target groups were present at the roadshow. “We are targeting youths, first time voters, women and political leaders. We targeted the leaders because they have the power to make or break peaceful elections. They are the ones that are often accused of instigating violence through their words and paying the youth to become violent.”

An upbeat, Chatira told the Daily News that CCDZ was targeting areas with a history of violence during elections.

“We are targeting the three Mashonaland provinces because history has shown that these areas are problematic during election periods. We want to provide solidarity to the people.”

The venue for the roadshow was ideal as it was held at Wedza centre bus terminus where buses travelling to places such as Murambinda and Marondera were stationed, allowing people to take the peace message to places afar.

Vellim Nyama, advocacy officer for CCDZ, took to the stage and spoke on the importance of peace in communities during elections. Nyama reiterated the need for peace during elections. He urged the youth to register to vote and not to be used as drivers of violence during elections.

The crowd was diverse and the Daily News spoke to a retired police officer, Tiki Denenga, 48 of Chigwedere village.

He said: “Votes should not be attained through violence. We should know that we are neighbours, we should live in peace. People should remember the words of the late vice president John Nkomo that peace begins with me.”

Denenga urged CCDZ to hold such peace initiatives in resettlement areas and farming communities where he said cases of intimidation are rife. - Margaret Chinowaita, Community Affairs Editor

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