ZIMBABWE: Children harmed by political violence

Summary: Press release from New Hope.

Background

The freedom of expression and choice of leaders in a country is one of the fundamental rights for citizens of a democratic country. The election process is set in a country to ensure the smooth flow of the process of the people sovereign right to choose a leader of their choice at every given timeframe. Is this the situation in every country or it meant only for the developed countries? This is one big question one is made to ask when they are faced with a situation like ours here in Zimbabwe.

2008 has seen Zimbabwe holding the worst bloody election in its history since independence.On the 29th of March 2008 Zimbabweans went through an election process which was harmonized to facilitate the election of leaders in political offices of Local government, House of assembly, Senators as well as the head of state. The pre election period was very peaceful so was the election. However the post poll period was a bit stereotyped by people from different parties. Mainly it began with the prolonged announcement of the election results which saw unsettlement in the political atmosphere. The poll results resulted in a presidential election run off as the presidential candidates did not get the 51% poll as required by the law.

As I write it is now a one-man race as the Leader of the Movement for Democratic Change has withdrawn his candidature, thousands of President Mugabe’s youth militia are hard at work in all parts of the country and Epworth, a crowded peri-urburn, chaotic township in Harare’s southern outskirts. For the past 90 days counting from the day our Harmonised Elections were held people are being forced out of their houses, beaten and forcefully asked to go to the rally. No one is safe anymore every person in the country is a target, you have to belong to the Ruling party or face the punishment . It has never been so bad. And it has been very bad in Epworth every day for the past five weeks. Zanu PF has been working methodically through each house, area by area, subjecting every person they suspect of supporting the MDC - which is about 80 per cent of Epworth’s adult population - to a humiliating beating. "Every morning from nine until five people are force marched to rallies 200 houses belonging to MDC supporters has been demolished, hundreds of people have been rendered homeless, the sin being an MDC supporter, activist or you have a relative who won the Election against the Ruling party’s candidate. Man, woman, boys, girls, old man and women are beaten. I have heard or Deaths of MDC supporters in this area, I have personally assisted families from Epworth through my Organisation people who have been beaten and their houses destroyed, they have come to me with their stories, some get blankets laundry soap and cotton for girls and women.

It is all punishment for having voted for the MDC in the March elections, and to ensure that they vote correctly for Mr Mugabe in the run-off vote, which the ruling party insists will go ahead as planned and held. Property owners and thier lodgers are dragged out of her house . Zanu PF youths armed with sticks force march people to a place being used as a re-educaton center ,the place is near the dam in Epworth, where the militia base is situated. People are ordered to sit down, and a man in a Zanu PF T-shirts and neckerchiefs in Zanu PF colours of red, green, yellow and black read out numbers of houses of alleged MDC supporters,those called will have to go and sit in front, separate from everyone else."

Zanu PF’s knowledge of how anyone voted in a genuinely secret ballot in March, is simple. So few people voted for Zanu PF that their identities are well known to the authorities. It is assumed that everybody else voted for the MDC and Morgan Tsvangirai.One by one,people are asked to come to the front and they are forced to lie on the ground on their stomachs. Then they are beaten on their backs.Women cry. men grunt. They use heavy sticks. And dry poles. They use all their force, with two hands. And after they have been beaten, they have to stand up and give the Zanu PF fist salute. Then they have to say, ‘Pamberi ne-Mugabe. Ndadzoka ku Zanu PF [Forward with Mugabe. I am back to Zanu PF] Then they go and sit down again and the next one’s name is called. Echos of Slogans chanting and singing is heard from afar, including songs morcking Tsvangirai being as being HIV positive but In spite of the calculated terror, people has vowed never to vote for Zanu PF".

There is no way one can avoiding beating these days,we are now in a war situation,even those of us who are living in the Low density suburbs are also falling victim. When women are being beaten in Epworth they are forced to handover babies to other women. They spent the whole day sitting and getting lectures on Zanu PF,NO one is allowed to get up, no water, no food, no toilet, in the sun. No feeding babies, no changing nappies.The youths are being given T-shirts and beer to beat up people.There is no way out if you runaway your home is destroyed. People are now refugees in thir country.

Sexual abuse is nolonger a shock as it is said that even supporters of the same party are sexually abusing the women from their own party. Girls, young women and single women either widows or single parents are targeted for sexual gratification for the gangs at the bases at night.

While all this is happening, the victims of the violence at the moment are in great need of humanitarian aid. It surprising how the people are surviving given the fact that they are all living on one meal a day and this includes around a hundred children who are also in the safe havens. Besides food the victims in some instances do not have blankets as when they fled their homes they did not have the opportunity of grabbing a blanket with them and the are currently faced by a huge dilemma of this winter season. As at 1600 hours on the 20th of June we had recorded around 216 people who were in need of assistance. Of this total number we had managed to assist around a hundred only and that lives a balance of 116.

Yes we have all been told to suspend our field work but Shall we look at the humanitarian crisis go out of hand as we hide for safety in our offices until the environment is allowing? This is the biggest question that has hit us. The answer was a big NO. We are in a war situation let us also a behave like so,people are dying and family units are breaking down and there needs someone to look at the issue and stand up for the voiceless. We are to intermediating and asking for assistance on behalf of the citizens . And thus we embarked on this project to mitigate the plight of the citizens in the political instability phase. The aid that we had been able to give at the moment is of blankets, laundry soap and cotton wool. Each household has been getting 2 blankets, 2 bars of laundry soap and 1 packet (250grms) cotton wool. In this document we are sharing our experiences as of now in the operation.

Distributions in this political era has proved to be very difficult and one needs to be very tactful to ensure the safety of the officers on duty during the distributions as well as the safety of the beneficiaries. We have resorted to the strategy of mobile distribution to ensure that the above mentioned issues are addressed. We are using a minibus for these distributions. Beneficiaries were at different points in the designated roads and the minibus would pick them up. Distributions would then commence as soon they were on board and they would be dropped off at different points. As soon as this is done more beneficiaries would be picked up and the distributions went on as stated above.
As of Thursday the 19 June 2008 we had managed to reach out to about 67 households using this same method. However it has been noted that while we are assisting the victims as from our database the number is increasingly increasing and this leaves us with a gap in our intervention and might affect our desired impact at the end of the day. Currently we have a waiting list of around eighty deserving beneficiaries from Epworth alone. There are other issues arising form other areas where we as an organization operate in. These areas are the likes of Caledonia Farm on the eastern side of Harare as well as in Dzivarasekwa. Many people are on the run as they are afraid of victimization and some of them have already been informed that they are on the list and might be attacked any time.

It is our organizational policy that in everything that we do we mainstream HIV/ AIDS and Gender issues. As such we have also taken the opportunity of the distributions to also share with our beneficiaries on issues around prevention and care in HIV/ AIDS related issues. Domestic violence has also been talked in the distributions and it has proven to be very effective. The beneficiaries were very receptive of the information and the congratulated the organization for the wonderful holistic approach to their needs as they alluded that at times not only material needs were of imminent address but they also would like to have information to empower them in their spheres of life for the future.

Challenges

The number of needy and deserving beneficiaries is on the increase while the stocks are mainly for 147 households and are drying up.
Children are also in the affected beneficiaries but the items in distribution are not age sensitive as in most cases some of the households are too big for the distributed items
Fuel at times is running down during the distributions as we do not have any funding for this execise.

Food security is very critical as the beneficiaries are living on one meal a day
Some of the victims are sleeping in the open space and they are at the mercy of the hash winter conditions and these include children who range from as young as a few months old to eighteen years
Medical care for the injured is not that fast and reliable as times it is taking longer than expected before the injured are attended.

Recommendations

  • The stocks need to be updated so that they also meet the numbers needed as in the database.
  • Psychosocial support for children and women is required during this phase.
    Fuel should always be available to ensure that the distributions are not interrupted and will go on smoothly.
  • Food items also need to be part of the distribution package as the beneficiaries are in need of food at the moment.
  • Given the weather conditions it is highly recommended that if the people can get plastic sheeting to protect them at least from the weather and also to protect their property especially for those whose houses have been demolished.
  • There is need to give medical assistance to the injured regardless of political sides to save humanity. If medical services could be offered to the injured and even the sick as they are finding it difficult to access medication due to fear and intimidation in the area.

The stocks need to be updated so that they also meet the numbers needed as in the database.

Conclusion

We shall continue with this high risk exersice as someone has to be there for the people.Our mobile distributions shall be during the day and at night. We therefore appeal for more aid to assist more households ,food as well as the plastic sheeting for more beneficiaries is in great need.

Further information

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