“Peace over Violence”
(Towards a peaceful Zimbabwe 2018 National Elections)
Article by Lance Muteyo
Elections in Zimbabwe have been characterised by massive politically-motivated violence which has left a lot of ‘scars’ in communities. History tells us that politically-motivated violence occurs in every society at some point during its existence. Be it in time of independence or rebellion, young people invariably play a role in perpetrating acts of violence. Indeed, in weak and emerging societies, political leaders sometimes play a subversive role in manipulating and mobilising young people to violently realise and further their own political objectives.
Conflicts are inevitable. Our desire is to transform the negative, destructive effects of conflicts into positive, constructive sustainable development through utilizing local resources in the planning, execution, monitoring and evaluation of the project. Tonganai Muchemwa a music promoter came up with the idea of working with young artists in highly marginalised communities in Zimbabwe starting with Epworth in Harare. In doing this he incorporated Big Tinx Records for music production, Trees of Peace Africa for peace training and sustainable livelihoods training, and Simba Manyika and Friends Association for community mobilisation.
We managed to mobilise 600 young people who are sometimes used as perpetrators of violence due to their idleness in Epworth. These are talented musicians without exposure. They sing about their experiences. Therefore we encouraged them to do a peace song which we recorded and did a video. We challenged them to take a risk and start by uniting as artists (Zimbabwean artists are usually against each other). This was so huge as they entered their discomfort zones which led them to challenge many things they saw as normal.
Eventually they saw violence firstly as passive resistance from every individual. They realised that one cannot transform his or her society without transforming his or her life first. Therefore, this project begins with the self-realisation of personal peace. Of late Zimbabwe has witnessed hate speech on social media. Hence we are teaching that verbal shouts without action is violence. Therefore we are geared towards action-oriented, results-oriented activism through these youths.
One of the challenges identified is lack of sustainable livelihoods due unequal power relations between the “haves” and the “have-nots.” This is one of the greatest “violent” situations that has led perpetrators of violence to use youths as weapons for violence. Our young people seriously suffer from internalised external oppression which has created self-hurt perceived in drug abuse, vulgarity, domestic violence, crime, suicide and societal anarchy.
Violence is intrinsic in Zimbabwe and most African countries who suffered slavery and colonialism and continue to suffer imperialism. Zimbabwe has a continuous history of violent conflict, dating back to the original occupation by the British in the 1890s. Violent problem-solving has been a feature of many governments and persists today. States that emerged out of violent struggle through liberation movements seem to have developed differently to those that emerged through peaceful handovers, and this is very evident in contemporary political dynamics in Zimbabwe especially towards and during elections. Zimbabwe got its Independence in 1980 through a violent liberation struggle.
Outside of the very serious period of violence, the Liberation War, virtually all elections since 1980 have been marred by political violence, and some were much more violent than others, especially since 2000. The greatest concern about elections in Zimbabwe in particular and Africa in general is always political violence. Therefore, this project is an initiative that aims to preach the gospel of peace to Zimbabwean citizens ahead of the 2018 elections through musical concerts. Music is an eloquent language that allows people to express what is happening around them in many senses, and to reflect the times and the situation in which we live. It is inseparable from our social, political, economic and cultural reality. However, we need more than music. Music is the soul of this project whilst peace trainings and sustainable livelihoods programs are the body that house the soul. All these artists are been trained to be good citizens. Citizens who see themselves as agents of change. Citizens who do not blame the situations of slavery, colonialism, neo-colonialism, imperialism and bad governance but responsible people who sing and practise positive transformation.
This peace song features Pankshan “Chigudo”, Seh Breezy, Ras Shingz, Madzibaba Teaspoon, Toto, Automan, Buju Bruce, Crazy E. It’s called Ngatibatanei; a Shona word for a call to unity. It has become a popular song in Zimbabwe which is really changing the way people feel for each other regardless of different political affiliations.
“When we recorded this song I thought it was just showbiz but I am now realising that I am a transformed person, a peace loving person. I think I love this idea of singing for peace” Seh Breezy
Crazy E had this to say;
“I like the idea of complementing music with non-violent activism training. It makes sense”
Trees of Peace Africa got the license from Zimbabwe Electoral Commission; an election body that conducts elections in Zimbabwe to collaborate with them in Voter Education. Resource permitting the project intends to move to several areas in Zimbabwe and will continue doing so long after the 2018 elections. It is our vision that we will eventually move to other African countries.
Lance Muteyo is the Coordinator of Trees of Peace Africa and the Project Coordinator for the Pan African Peace Network (PAPNET). He lives in Harare, Zimbabwe. Muteyo is a well-travelled peace activist who facilitates workshops on hard topics using experiential educational methods and adventure based learning tools. (To see more about Lance Muteyo’s peacemaking in the Peace Bios, click here.)