Drug abuse and illegal parcelling of land, major drivers of conflicts in Epworth and Hopley

Artists working with Heal Zimbabwe to build peace through music from Epworth and Hopley have singled out drug abuse by youths and illegal parceling of land by land barons as major drivers of conflict. This came out during a two day training workshop for artists organised by Heal Zimbabwe from 15-16 March 2020. A total of 16 dancehall artists attended the training.

The objectives of the training were to capacitate artists with skills on how to mainstream peace building through music and art and also create platforms that help youths to peacefully engage with duty bearers in their local communities. Participants noted that most youths were engaging in substance abuse as a way of getting strength to engage in menial economic activities such as touting and begging. Participants also reported that because of high drug abuse, young girls were engaging in prostitution. “Here in Hopley young boys and girls are getting drugs at drug hideouts disguised as recording studios. In turn they engage in all acts of vices such as crime and prostitution” said one artist from Hopley. It was also revealed that illegal parcelling of land by land barons was also another issue driving conflicts. “There are several illegal structures here in Epworth and the land barons are working in cahoots with Ministry of Local government officials to illegally sell land to people. A week hardly goes by without incidences of violence over land,” added a participant from Epworth. Participants also noted that this was being aided by rampant unemployment among young people. In turn most land barons have exploited the situation by creating gangs of young people who from time to time threaten residents who default payments of stands subscriptions to cooperatives run by land barons.

As part of way forward, the artists resolved to raise awareness against drug abuse through music. This will be done through utilizing various social spaces where young people congregate. As part of building peaceful communities, the artist will partner Heal Zimbabwe to mainstream peace through their music. The artists also resolved to create platforms where young people can register their concerns to duty bearers such as Councillors and Legislators. The training of artists by Heal Zimbabwe is not the first time the organisation has harnessed the power of music and arts to build social cohesion and peaceful communities. From 2017-2018 the organisation ran a campaign dubbed #13MillionVoices4Peace,that sought to raise awareness for peace ahead of the 2018 plebiscite. Renowned Dancehall artist, Winky D, was the face of the campaign. In the run up to the 2018 elections, several peace concerts were conducted in areas such as Gokwe, Zaka, Bulawayo, Chipinge, and Bindura among other areas.

Source: Heal Zimbabwe

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