Each year Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) observes the International Day of Peace together with the rest of the world on 21 September. This is a very pertinent day for ZPP as an organisation with a firm foundation in the area of peace building. The day allows the world to reflect on progress in building peace for its citizens. The day’s theme for 2016 is “The Sustainable Development Goals: Building Blocks for Peace.” The United Nations General Assembly has declared today as a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and people.
It is however disconcerting that this year the day is being commemorated when Zimbabwe is at cross roads economically, politically and socially. There is no way that citizens can enjoy peace when their constitutionally guaranteed rights continue to be violated by duty bearers with impunity. Citizens have in the past few months been subjected to police brutality all in a bid to stop them from making demands, which are building blocks to enjoying peace. Building blocks for peace means that the police service becomes a friend of citizens as they are mandated to maintain law and order as well as protect lives and property. Using tear gas and preventing citizens from demonstrating and petitioning peacefully, results in citizens being pushed to the edge. Police officers are not building blocks of peace if they throw tear gas canisters in enclosed areas causing untold suffering of people in general and in particular children. Citizens on the other hand have a responsibility of staging peaceful protests all the time. Section 59 of the Constitution speaks to every person having the right to demonstrate and present petitions but these rights must be exercised peacefully.
Most families are struggling to put food on the table for a plethora of reasons; among them not knowing when the next salaries and pensions will be paid and whether or not banks have money to pay out. The discordant messages that people get from authorities also compound the challenges that citizens continue to face thus denying them the enjoyment of peace.
The families of those who are and some who have been victims of enforced disappearance continue to struggle with enjoying peace as they do not know the whereabouts of their loved ones and cannot come to terms with their loved ones having experienced such a heinous crime which is a crime against humanity. A few families come to mind Paul Chizuze, Itai Dzamara and most recently Silvanos Mudzvova who was abducted at gun point, tortured and left for dead. In order to build bridges to peace in this regard the government of Zimbabwe is implored to outlaw enforced disappearances and commit to signing the Convention Against Torture.
With the ravaging effects of the El Nino induced drought some families have to live with being discriminated and denied access to food and other aid because they are considered to hold different views from those of the ruling party. Children of activists, some of whom are languishing in prison, have no peace to celebrate as they do not know when they will see their parents and where their next meal will come from. Building peace during this time as most citizens have nothing left in their granaries is to ensure that when agricultural inputs are distributed they are given to all who deserve to build their food security in the next season and not just for those known to support the ruling party.
Putting Zimbabwe’s constitution under the spotlight means that peace is about the respect of the supreme law of the land and the avoidance of unnecessary interference with pillars of the same law when they discharge their mandate. When the executive dabbles in other areas it means that there are no blocks building peace thus failing on sustainable development goals.
ZPP acknowledges that for there to be peace the most important factors are building mutual understanding, respect, and tolerance between individuals and communities. ZPP is guided by peace, justice, dignity and development for all.
Peace, according to this day, refers to the holistic peace that an individual enjoys that begins with the inner self and spreading to other aspects and is not the absence of war or violence. Peace therefore would mean economic, political and social peace.
Through various activities and projects through its partners and in targeted communities, ZPP seeks to address the root causes of conflict and promote the understanding of peace in urban and rural communities.
This year ZPP will be hosting a sporting tournament in Mutoko. In a bid to foster peace-building initiatives, ZPP is working with a Mutoko Faith Based Organisation (FBO) that has taken the opportunity of this day to draw attention to the need for holistic peace within the community. This platform of engagement will be entertaining as well as informative.
ZPP was founded in 2000 by a group of faith based and human rights NGOs working and interested in human rights and peace-building initiatives. The organisation has become a vehicle for civic interventions in times of political crises. In particular, ZPP seeks to monitor and document incidents of human rights violations and breaches of peace.