Bulawayo Agenda, a civil society organisation, in collaboration with churches recently organized a peace concert in Matabeleland North, which attracted thousands from Lupane, a district on the road from Bulawayo to Victoria Falls.
During the unique concert held under the Church and Civil Society banner, villagers prayed for peace and tranquility to prevail during the looming constitutional referendum and subsequent general elections, while songs promoting the same values were entertaining the crowd.
Last Zimbawean election campaign was the most violent in history, as many lives were lost. The political organ stemming from the Global Political Agreement and mandated to heal the 2008 election wounds, has not done much to achieve its intended goals.
At Gomoza business centre (a communial ward in Lupane with an estimated population of 4,395 people), we spoke to Thabani Nyoni, Bulawayo Agenda executive director, who said the concert came out of the idea that the organ on national healing had not done enough to preach peace ahead of the looming ballot. “The government-initiated programme on national healing has been limited to hotels, and a subject of newspapers at the expense of reaching out to people in villages who suffered that violence,” said Nyoni.
He added, “We therefore saw it fit to bring such campaigns to this province in order to attract those ministers to come and preach peace to communities.” Nyoni said Gomoza was strategically chosen in the province considered to be the most politically unstable in the country, with police having banned a number of rallies last year for the two formations of the Movement for Democratic Change. While a number of political violence cases were recorded in the same province during the 2008 polls.
“Although we were looking forward to many people coming to this occasion, we were not expecting thousands that we now see. We are actually stunned,” said Nyoni.
He paid tribute to traditional leaders for their support saying that without their cooperation the concert would not have been a success. Nyoni said the programme would be extended to other provinces in the country before the country goes for the ballot.
Moses Mzila Ndlovu, National Healing, Reconciliation and Integration Co-Minister present at the gathering said, “Such meetings are extremely important in the sense that we have not seen much of such gatherings where people gather around a particular idea or concept totally devoid of party tags or party affiliation.”
Mzila Ndlovu also said that such platforms were putting communities above political inclination of their individual members. “It is important that people begin to realise that party belonging is a right. But it is not a right to be abused. You cannot choose to belong to a party and then say I will then interfere with the next person’s right to belong to any different political party,” he said.
During the concert, villagers danced to music by different dance groups like Ndolwane Super Sounds, a regional music performance and production company with allegedly over 100,000 fansin Southern Africa, while politicians hammered on the unity beginning at the village level.
Senator for Lupane, Dalumuzi Khumalo, urged villagers to put into practice what they learnt at the concert to ensure that peace prevails in the country during and after the next elections.