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Zimbabwe I-stories: 20 months on

October 2011

A year and eight months on since Christian Aid’s partner the Student Christian Movement of Zimbabwe (SCMZ) launched the I-stories booklet, Douglas Tigere, who led the project, reports back on how the stories have helped to motivate other young Zimbabweans to overcome painful experiences from their recent past, and move towards peaceful political involvement. 

The I-stories booklet bravely shares the experiences of both survivors and perpetrators of 2008’s politically motivated violence – much of which involved youth gangs at a community level. 

With support from Christian Aid, the booklet was printed and distributed nationwide through SCMZ groups in schools, colleges and universities to its 5,000 members and beyond.

‘The booklet has become an important tool for discussions and dialogue, used by every SCMZ branch in their study circles and dialogue meetings,’ says Douglas, adding that response to, and demand for, the booklet has been ‘overwhelming.’

Describing the process of sharing the stories as ‘humbling’, Douglas recalls being moved to tears on hearing others recounting their experiences during the 2008 elections: ‘especially those who have been beaten, abused or who experienced the harshest inhumane treatment because of their belief in democracy.’

Mother and child

SCMZ member Matsilso with her son.

During the elections run-off period, SCMZ member Matsiliso was arrested with her baby son in her arms and made to spend the night in appalling cell conditions for her part in mobilising young people to vote.

‘They said “we want to teach you a lesson, you are going to go into the cells with your baby.” People were being killed; people just disappeared…people were being beaten up. I thought they were going to do whatever [they wanted] to my son and get away with it.’

Though Zimbabwe’s President is keen for elections early next year (2012), they may be postponed until late 2012 or early 2013 as the Zimbabwean government is under significant pressure from the South African Development Community to wait until the conditions in country are conducive to free and fair elections. 

The I-stories remain relevant, and reaching out to young people as urgent as ever in promoting the peaceful political engagement of young Zimbabweans, as Zimbabwe politics remain tumultuous and African news sites report continued violent and disruptive behaviour by politically affiliated youth with little police intervention or protection.

Christian Aid continues to support SCMZ’s work nurturing a culture of peace among youth in Zimbabwe. ‘Young people have been abused by politicians as machinery for violence during election times or as machinery to quell any dissent as political parties jostle for political superiority,’ explains Douglas. ‘Ours is an intensive campaign rooted in mobilising young people to desist from violence and act as agents of peace in their communities.’

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