Impact of political violence on people with disabilities

/Executive Summary

Violence and conflict during political activities is widespread and they have a disproportionate impact on persons with disabilities (PWDs) in a multitude of ways. Through a number of factors, conflict situations also contribute to extreme mental, emotional, and physical harm to individuals with disabilities (acquired through conflict or otherwise), their families and the community at large. These harms and their after-effects can last for year’s even decades, causing further stress between and within communities.

This research report represents the importance of protecting PWDs during political activities and outlines a pathway in which Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP), Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and Government can work together to enable the voice of PWDs to be heard and prevent political violence faced by PWDs. This was a small sample research of 74 respondents to investigate the impact of political violence on PWDs predominantly in Murewa, Mutoko and Mudzi. Using qualitative methods, in-depth interviews were used to gather data from PWDs and key organisations selected. Some interviewees in other areas other than Murewa, Mutoko and Mudzi were interviewed telephonically. The main findings revealed that Political violence which is applied on the general citizenry has the effect of discouraging PWDs from taking an active role in politics.

ZANU PF is reported as the main perpetrator of political violence. Its role in unleashing such violence is also supported by the State apparatus such as the Police, State Security Agents and the Army. This creates a highly poisoned political environment in which, like any other citizens, PWDs fear for their lives if they were to take an active role in politics.

PWDs that choose to support the opposition are at risk of political violence such as harassment, sexual assault, physical assault, intimidation, physical and emotional torture, and malicious injury to property, abduction and arson, just like any other citizens. PWDs shy away from participating since they consider themselves as defenceless and highly vulnerable. Although there was no conclusive evidence on political violence directly applied on the majority of PWDs interviewed it was however noted through other data sources that PWD are indiscriminately affected by political violence. Political violence induced disabilities could neither be confirmed nor denied for fear of reprisal. This shows that, the prevalence of disabilities as a result of political violence cannot be ruled out, although there is no conclusive evidence. Disability service organisations are not involved in mitigation of political violence, particularly if perpetrated against PWDs. This is because not many PWDs are involved in political activities. Unintended results of the study indicated that in terms of PWDs contesting for political office they are barred by poverty, as the majority of them still have to satisfy lower level physiological needs.

Society is generally unwilling to vote for PWDs whom they always look down upon as sick people. Furthermore, PWDs are disenfranchised and thus cannot exercise their right to vote and to be voted for due to a plethora of impediments such as disability unfriendly laws and voting practices. People are using political violence to settle personal disputes, such as jealously emanating from differences in economic and social status, witchcraft accusations, etc. The study amongst a host of others recommends that ZPP should deliberately mainstream disability in its activities of violence monitoring and review. Victims of political violence should be disaggregated according to disability type, gender, age, geographical area in order to assist policy makers and social planners to come up with disability friendly interventions. This therefore calls for setting up of a disability desk manned by a PWD whose role would be to provide internal disability consultancy to ZPP staff and management. ZPP should mobilise resources and implement programmes towards rehabilitating socially and economically marginalised people who acquired disabilities due to political violence, as well as to embrace a mandate to include disability leaders/Disabled Peoples Organisations as civil society participants in funding, research and peace building initiatives.

Source: Zimbabwe Peace Project

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