UNDP Deputy Country Director Martin Maya makes some remarks at the gathering while Sida Country Director looks on.

Various stakeholders in the Mutasa District of Manicaland have hailed the work of an organic local peace committee that has been championing conflict resolution and peace-building work in the district in the last couple of years. The committee, dubbed the Mutasa for Peace Committee is a unique body constituting various stakeholders across the socio-economic, political and administrative landscape of Mutasa District.

The committee was formed under the auspices of the Ecumenical Church Leaders Forum (ECLF) after workshops that had been run on conflict management and resolutions skills. The committee was set up as a purely community initiative to address the peculiar peace challenges in the community and ECLF continues to play a nurturing and guiding role.

Testifying at an experiential site visit organized for ECLF’s partners, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida) in Honde Valley (Mutasa) last week, key stakeholders took turns to extol the virtues of the community, which they largely described as having brought stability and cohesion in the district.

In a moving testimony, Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) Deputy Assistant Commissioner, only identified as Sgt Shonhiwa, said that the committee had mitigated so many political conflicts that there was noticeable change in police records. He said that the committee was so diligent in its work that the police was convinced that it could assist them in policing work.

“The Mutasa for Peace Committee has made our policing work easier. In the run up to the elections last year we hardly got any serious cases of politically motivated violence as compared to previous elections due to the peace work of this committee. The more common cases these days are domestic violence, boundary disputes and public nuisance cases. I think we have reached a point where we can refer some cases to the committee to address and I urge them to set up a reference desk in a public area. We work very well with them and they never do anything without the involvement of the police,” said Sgt Shonhiwa.

Dr. T Mashingaidze, the District Medical Director, also informed the gathering that he had some knowledge of the committee and that he felt their peace work had something to do with the decrease of politically-motivated violence medical cases that they have to deal with at the District referral hospital.

“I have heard about the peace committee and from the little knowledge that I have I think they are doing good work. At the hospitals in the district we had become accustomed to treating people with axes in their heads and we have seen some of the ugliest wounds caused by all sorts of dangerous weapons mainly due to political violence towards the 2008 elections. This has changed drastically in the community as we have been having fewer cases of politically motivated violence. People say that this committee, with members from various parties, has played a role in bringing down the violence,” said Dr Mashingaidze.

UNDP Deputy Country Director Martin Maya marvelled at the work done by the committee and encouraged the committee to share their success story with other parts of the country so as to foster lasting peace in Zimbabwe.

“We are encouraged by the testimonies we heard here today. Politics should not be a negative source of tension. I think you people are turning that wrong notion around. You have a unique model that others can only learn from and adapt to their circumstances. Even the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission will have to draw from your experience. You can be the beginning of the peace architecture of this country,” said Maya.

In a vote of thanks, ECLF Board Chairman Bishop Danisa Ndlovu was full of praise for the work done by the committee in the district and pledged his organization’s timeless support going forward.

“We feel honoured to be associated with the kind of work that Mutasa Peace Committee does. I am particularly pleased with the involvement of the multiple stakeholders in this initiative. I think you have a powerful story to tell and your work needs to be replicated across the country: The story of people working for peace and embracing each other for who they are. We will continue to walk and stand with you as ECLF,” said Bishop Ndlovu.

Members of the visiting delegation had the chance to mingle with the locals in Honde Valley and appeared genuinely delighted by the learning excursion.