On 11 November 2017, Heal Zimbabwe took its National Peace campaign : 13 MILLION VOICES FOR PEACE to Gokwe where it conducted a peace concert at Gokwe centre. The objective of the peace concert was to popularize the national peace campaign and afford citizens an opportunity to pledge for peace before, during and after the 2018 elections. The venue had two voter registration centres within its vicinity and this allowed people to go register to vote.
HZT partnered with the Election Resource Centre which provided information on how to register and vote and ZIMRIGHTS assisted in mobilizing the people and encouraged them to register to vote. ERC provided 2 000 VR9 forms and 876 of them were commissioned and distributed by three Commissioners of oath who were stationed at the venue. The commissioners of oath provided free services which eased the registration process for many people.
The three organizations also took time to educate people on the requirements for one to register as a voter and also dispelled myths and falsehoods being peddled around the BVR process meant to instill fear and put in doubt the secrecy of the ballot. As this was happening, HZT as a memorialization strategy provided a photobooth were people had pictures of them taken after pledging to uphold peace. This created a lot of excitement around the peace campaign and kept people engaged throughout the eventful day. The organization was able to harvest 2 153 contacts of people who pledged to uphold peace. The information shall be used to keep in touch with the people providing updates on the electoral process and also reminding and encouraging them to continue upholding peace and tolerance.
In his opening remarks Heal Zimbabwe Executive Director, Rashid Mahiya encouraged community members to shun violence and pledge for peace ahead of the 2018 elections. “This peace concert is symbolic in that it offers an opportunity for people to pledge to uphold peace during and after elections. Let’s all shun political violence and build peaceful communities. We encourage all the people in Gokwe to register in their numbers. Let us all participate in this process peacefully”, he said
Chief Njelele also attended and encouraged the audience to uphold peace and shun violence. Among those who also attended were HZT community peace structures from Gokwe who include peace clubs, CBOs and women safe spaces who assisted in mobilizing and raising awareness on the day. In attendance were also other traditional leaders, aspiring political candidates, youth and women.
Community members present also vowed to mobilize others to register to vote in a peaceful manner. Heal Zimbabwe also allocated time to a Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) official to elaborate more on the BVR process and inform people on the designated voter registration centres. ZEC also witnessed an increase in the number of people who registered to vote at the two centres on the day from an average of eight people during the weekends to 105.
Renowned Dancehall Artist Soul Jah Love who was the main act on the day did not disappoint as he implored youths to shun political violence and embrace diversity within their various communities. Working with artists brings the numbers and attracts youth to actively participate in electoral processes. Youth are usually implicated in political violence. The peace concert was attended by an estimated 4 500 people. Heal Zimbabwe will intensify its efforts to popularize its national peace concert by conducting similar peace concerts in areas such as Gutu, Tsholotsho, Chipinge, Mazowe among other areas. The organization shall prioritize areas in phase 3 and 4 of the voter registration blitz.
Source: Heal Zimbabwe