Facilitating reconciliation in divided communities in Mashonaland Province, Zimbabwe
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Conflicts in Zimbabwe have triggered communities to be divided along political party lines. Violence has been prevalent and this has intensified economic ruin and social polarity. In high density urban areas this violence continues to divide communities. The overall aim of this research study was to facilitate reconciliation in divided communities in Mashonaland province, Zimbabwe with the Alternative for Violence Project (AVP), an international non-profit organisation that provides experiential training to individuals and organisations in nonviolence and pre-emptive conflict resolution. The objectives of the study were to explore the underlying causes of violence in Zimbabwe, its consequences and impact since 2000, and also to explain the concepts of conflict transformation, forgiveness and reconciliation as used by AVP. In addition, the study explored AVP’s outcomes in different contexts and examined its potential as an instrument for reconciliation by implementing several AVP workshops in the divided communities. Hatcliffe, a high density area outside Harare, was used as a sample population for the study which drew from Lederach’s theory of conflict transformation and from Azar‘s model of protracted social conflicts. The researcher used a qualitative approach in the field research and interviewed both the victims and perpetrators of violence as well as elected leaders in the Hatcliffe community. The main findings of the study were that reconciliation efforts are best begun with an orientation towards peace-building for community residents and local ownership of all reconciliation processes. All community members directly or indirectly involved in a conflict situation are critical to reconciliation efforts and third parties must ensure that these people are empowered to make their own decisions. The study concluded that AVP is an effective tool which can be used to change people’s perspectives about conflict and that creating safe spaces where people can articulate their issues in a relaxed atmosphere can be deeply healing. Because the findings are not disconfirmed by prior theories and research based on similar efforts, but rather add to knowledge already gained, one can assume that there also is a degree of external validity to the study.