AT least 22 000 victims of the 2008 political violence have so far sought treatment for injuries and trauma at a counselling and rehabilitation centre in Harare, which says it is still recording fresh cases.
The centre, an organisation with some of Zimbabwe’s most experienced medical doctors and psychologists, said of the 22 193 recorded cases, only 10 200 received “proper physical and psychological treatment”.
The other 11 993 did not follow up on treatment because of issues such as intimidation and lack of resources to continue attending sessions, according to the group, which only released the figures after assurances that its name would not be published for its safety and that of its patients, the majority of whose cases are political.
“Due to issues of transport and safety, the majority of clients who receive counselling services are able to attend a single session only,” an official from the centre told the Zimbabwe Independent this week.
The official said some of the victims were affected by multiple trauma, as they were forced to live in rural areas after the government’s 2005 destruction of urban homes, deemed illegal under Operation Murambatsvina.
The United Nations says the operation, carried out by the police with brutality in the middle of winter, left over 700 000 people homeless.
The continued stream of political violence victims to health and counselling centres make the coalition government’s national healing and reconciliation efforts a mockery.
“A significant fact to note which has a bearing on healing is that the majority of the victims have had multiple trauma,” the official said. “Many of the victims, because of their activism, have been tortured and assaulted many times in successive elections over the years.”
“The same victims also suffered the trauma of HIV and Aids. They have borne the trauma of loss in Operation Murambatsvina. This cumulative trauma has a significant impact on coping and healing.”
A profile of people visiting the treatment centre shows that poor people were most vulnerable to political violence, the official said.
The official added: “The poor who make the biggest share of the population of victims and who solely depended on peasant subsistence agriculture as a source of livelihood suffered permanent physical disabilities in the form of broken limbs and back complications which now render the performance of necessary economic activity very difficult if not impossible.”
High levels of severe injuries were recorded in Uzumba Maramba Pfungwe, Seke, Muzarabani, Mutoko, Mutare, Murehwa, Mt Darwin, Harare, Gutu, Epworth and Buhera, according to the official.
The official said the few remaining Zanu PF strongholds in Mashonaland provinces “remain very tense and almost like war zones and movement is restricted and closely monitored so clients still live in extreme fear and do not trust anyone”.
Some victims who have received treatment at the centre say they are still battling with the trauma of the 2008 political violence.
Fifty-six-year-old Morris Chabvondeka from Muzarabani South says he will never forget May 13 2008 when his two sons were murdered and dumped in a field.
“I can never forgive and forget when I see the perpetrators walking freely and continue to harass me and my family. I expect them to be brought before the courts before any form of apology or confessions,” Chabvondeka told the Independent.
Tavengwa Chokuda, an MDC activist in Gokwe, has refused to bury his son Moses, 17 months after he was murdered by alleged Zanu PF youths.
“It is now a year and five months my son is still lying at Gokwe hospital mortuary. He is still in the police’s metal coffin. I tried to facilitate a dialogue with those who killed my son but it never happened. It’s very painful for me that justice is very slow,” he said on Wednesday when the Independent checked on the status of the dispute.