A colourful Arts For Peace Gala meant to celebrate peace and harmony in Mudzi, Mashonaland East was ordered off at the last minute on Saturday owing to a “technical issue” with law enforcement authorities.
The much-heralded gala put together by the Church Convergence On Peace (CCOP) wing under the directorship of Bishop Ancelimo Magaya and the first of its kind in the country, was slated to happen at the Mudzi Resource Centre grounds from 10 am until late afternoon.
Groups of people, among them singers, poets, actors and traditional performers, who came in ululating and singing Mutambo Uye Wazobudirira were left dispirited after they were told that the gala has been postponed to a later date as communications were faulted with Zimbabwe Republic Police.
How this happened left many heads spinning as the fete was widely publicised on National Broadcasting Radios.
In a side briefing about the deferment, Arts For Peace organiser and CCOP resident pastor Gabriel Karonga told local chiefs, heads of villages, councilmen, pastors and members of the media they have cancelled the event due to an unrealised technical issue.
The cleric said that the District Administrator’s office which was handling all invitations and liaising with the stakeholders allegedly overlooked writing a proper clearance letter to the Mutoko police DISPO and the Mudzi (Kotwa) police Member in Charge.
Pastor Karonga submitted that as all communications were being overseen by DA Muzeziwa, he rightfully assumed that he had reached out to the police as well as he had with everybody else.
He, however, was awakened rudely around 9 am while all the preparations for the ceremony were as good as completed when the DA came to the site and yanked him to the local ZRP station, who told the pastor that the fair was not sanctioned by their office.
With more groups of people arriving at the event and an air of uncertainty continuing to engulf Pastor Karonga’s appointment to the police, attempts were made to reach him but his phone kept on ringing with no one picking up.
Director Bishop Magaya soon followed him up at the police base, where among other things, he was informed that the gala was not heard of by the police.
In during the negotiations, petitions were made to let the event run, an arrangement which both the DISPO and Member in Charge concurred to, only if the DA was in consent.
Regardless, DA Muzeziwa, who many local people at the event rumoured was inebriated as he was seen earlier that morning with a Super-Chibuku bottle at his homestead, could not conform, saying he did not want to be involved in such an impromptu plan.
It was at this stage that all the hopes to go on with the gala were officially written off.
Against that milieu, it was worked out that the chief liaison who in this case was the DA would go back to the event venue and deliver the sad news to the attendants that the event would not proceed.
Muzewiwa drove his Nissan truck to the venue, but merely to defer from the arrangement, saying he was not dressed up properly.
Efforts to reach out to him were abortive as he instantly faded into thin air.
A disgruntled Chief Nyamasekwere said the cancellation of the gala mirrored how divided the Mudzi Constituencies are.
“We should be a team when doing this. We want peace here. We do not know where this went wrong. It is a waste of our time. We have chiefs and headmen who came from very far places. As a chief, I can say let’s go on with the event, but that will leave me in stark contrast with the DA’s office.”
Local Councillor Chipo Mutero said the repeal of the peacebuilding gala which had assembled the political right and left was a major impediment to peacebuilding in the ZANU PF ran constituency.
Bishop Magaya said it has always been the intention of the Church to host an inclusive, safe and enjoyable peace-promoting oriented event that should be reflective and encompass the entire community as possible.
He echoed Pastor Karonga’s apologies and acknowledged the community for being patient and understanding.
“We greatly appreciate all the support you have given to CCOP by coming here, and we sincerely apologise for any upset and inconvenience this cancellation causes. We would like to use this opportunity to remind you that there are many other exciting events to promote peace and harmony coming up. Please let this do not sway you from joining us on those events as we continue to strengthen the covenant of peace we have made as a community,” said the Bishop.
Pastor Karonga said that the event has roused him on how he will conduct communications with all shareholders in the politically tense area located nearby Zimbabwe-Mozambican border.
“We have learnt from this. Next time we will do all the necessary liaising with all stakeholders as a measure to avoid disappointments like this,” he said apologetically to the dismay of the multitude that had gathered to take part in the prize-winning gala.
Criticism from other groups, however, posited that there was nothing technical about the cancellation as all is at the centre of partisan politics in the area.
Unestablished reports pointed to there being a politically motivated third-hand remote-regulating the DA’s job.
A baffled headman Kabonde pried what the issue around the annulment of the event was really about, as this was the second time a CCOP-connected event had been called off in a space of a year.
“It is very ironic that the DA sent out invitations to all stakeholders but did not inform the police about it. We need no microscopic lenses to see that this was deliberate,” fumed one disappointed attendee.
“We spent so much time rehearsing and practising for this. To be told the event is no more is a stab at our hearts.”
Another local man who travelled over 40 kilometres to take part in the gala said he knew the DA personally and that he was ordinarily a challenging person to deal with.
“I know the DA. That is his doing. He is so difficult to deal with. He’s so partisan,” said the man who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The political and social environment in Mashonaland East reportedly continues to halt peacebuilding endeavours as this was not the first time CCOP programs has been shut roughly in their face.
Last year, another peace workshop was barefacedly stopped with the CCOP team told that a top politician had said he would not be attending the event, hence it could not proceed. Although transport arrangements were made to pick up the official, he was still adamant to attend, let alone allow the pulpit-led event to advance.
Politically and socially, Zimbabwe remains a deeply fragmented society as its past is sullied by experiences of political violence and injustices that have left many people scarred both physically and emotionally.
Even though, survivors and perpetrators must continue to live side by side, the hurt that defines their relationships have rarely been addressed.
It was only in 2018 that the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) began to take its first steps towards integrating and healing the nation.
Churches Convergence On Peace is an initiative led by the Church organisations seeking to contribute to lasting peacebuilding and conflict transformation. In its endeavours, it seeks to accomplish this in cooperation with NPRC and Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC).
CCOP specifically seeks to accompany the NPRC in addressing the notorious violent conflicts during the Gukurahundi in the early 80s, violence in the 2000s during the land reform programs, and the 2008 election violence which swept the whole country, as well as the most recent conflicts.
An apolitical initiative with the comprehensive aim of contributing to a violence-free atmosphere for sustainable peace in the pre-and post-electoral context, CCOP is a brainchild of the Zimbabwe Divine Destiny (ZDD) (under Bishop Ancelimo Magaya), Zimbabwe Churches Alliance (ZCA), Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC) and the Danish Church Aid.
Mudzi registers itself as a fit destination for CCOP as various reports by the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) have repeatedly indicated that the remote district is a hotbed of political violence, with opposition candidates complaining of vandalism of their campaign posters and the burning of their property.
The area located in the part of Mashonaland East closer to the border with Mozambique gained notoriety for political violence during the 2008 elections, with violent operations against the opposition members carried out by the late MP Aquallinah Katsande and her son George Katsande (Zanu PF).
In the runup to the 2018 elections, Zimrights established that threats to political opponents by Zanu PF supporters were still very much alive, with UANC Mudzi candidate Silver Chiripanyanga having been threatened by the ruling party supporters.
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