Survivor of 2008 Political Violence Now a Peace Ambassador

“He pointed a gun at my chest and pulled the trigger. Miraculously he missed my chest and shot me on the arm, which instantly got fractured”…These are the words of a political violence survivor, Hilton Chironga from Mazowe as he narrated his ordeal in May 2009 to Heal Zimbabwe. Chironga and other MDC activists woke up on the 20th of June 2008 surrounded by several ZANU PF youths who were clad in security services uniform (police and soldiers). This was seven days before the presidential runoff called by former President Robert Mugabe on 27 June 2008 after the March elections in the same year were marred by a gross incidences of targeted violence against MDC activists. As Chironga tried to escape, he was shot on the arm. His young brother was also shot and died on the same day after he had tried to help him. Several members of his family were also heavily assaulted. The attackers then forced Chironga to swallow a poisonous substance and left him for dead after he lost consciousness.

In the aftermath of Chironga’s assault and other mass killings across the country, Heal Zimbabwe initiated a project titled, Memorialisation and Ritualization project. The objectives of the project were to reintegrate victims of political violence by offering descent burials for the dead, restore the economic function of survivors as well as rekindle the call for a robust healing and reconciliation process anchored on inclusive participation right from the grassroots level.

In 2008, Heal Zimbabwe facilitated for Chironga to access medical services and post trauma counseling. As part of the memorialization and ritualization project, Heal Zimbabwe also facilitated for Chironga to conduct a memorial for his late brother. Under the memorialisation and ritualization project, Heal Zimbabwe managed to conduct 245 memorials and distributed 175 income generating projects for survivors of the 2008 political violence. Memorialisation is a process that satisfies the desire to honour those who suffered or died during a conflict and as a means to examine the past and address contemporary issues. It helps promote social recovery after violent conflict ends.

Today, Chironga is a renowned peace ambassador whose motivation is fuelled by the desire to see cohesive and peaceful communities. Over the past years, Chironga has been working with Heal Zimbabwe in its peace building initiatives in Mazowe where he mobilizes the community for activities that build social cohesion such as Youth Sports for Peace tournaments and collaborative neutral platforms (nhimbes). These activities target both perpetrators and survivors, whose participation in peaceful activities is key. Chironga has also actively participated in the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) stakeholder consultative meetings since 2016. The NPRC is an independent commission established under the constitution tasked with ensuring post-conflict justice, healing and reconciliation. Through the facilitation of Heal Zimbabwe, Chironga has utilized these meetings to demand a wholesome, inclusive healing process characterized by justice, victim protection and truth telling. On the need for legal reform, Chironga together with Heal Zimbabwe in 2016 took the then Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Emmerson Mnangagwa to the constitutional court over delays in providing an effective and independent mechanism for receiving and investigating complaints from members of the public in compliance with section 210 of the constitution. This provision empowers citizens to report about the misconduct on the part of members of the security services in and for remedying any harm caused by such conduct. Although the judgment for that case was reserved, Chironga remains hopeful that one day citizens will be able to drag members of the security services who have perpetrated gross human rights violations to court once the mechanism becomes operational. “The delays in the outcome of the court case have strengthened my resolve to fight for a just and fair reconciliation process in Zimbabwe. One day, citizens who have suffered at the hands of members of the security services will get their justice,” he says.

Source: Heal Zimbabwe

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