Mental scars linger for Kwekwe machete violence victims

By William Milasi

MEMORIES are still fresh and deeply etched in the mind of Marvis Matambo as she recalls the life-altering events of the fateful morning in January 2020.

Matambo is a vendor in the suburb of Torwood about 30 km from one of Midlands’s provincial city of Kwekwe the epicentre of machete wars.

The gold and turf wars from mining sites by artisanal miners have been of late spilling to residential areas, where residents such as Matambo usually fall victim to violence.

“I have never in my life seen a person being murdered in broad daylight like what I witnessed on that day,” Matambo narrates the life-altering event.

On the fateful day, rival gangs belonging to Maketo and Dube families clashed and the fight resulted in the grisly demise of one person who was brutally murdered with machetes.

According to the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP), a local NGO that records and documents political violence, machete murders are over 100 while more than 200 people were seriously injured.

Kwekwe resident Deniss Chidamajaya narrated a harrowing tale of how his son and his friend were assaulted by the machete-wielding thugs before they robbed him.

Chidamajaya, who is also a member of the Redcliff Residents Organisation said the community has been left in fear.

Redcliff Deputy Mayor Vincent Masiiwa said the machete wars have left a permanent mark of fear on victims and residents alike.

“The major challenge is that the perpetrators are always left off the hook even when they are arrested you will always find them back in the community,” said Masiiwa.

A Parliamentarian for Mbizo Constituency, Settlement Chikwinya said violence seems to be part of the life of people in Kwekwe, and that is a cause for concern.

A medical practitioner and Former Cabinet Minister Dr Henry Madzorera said the government must come up with mechanisms to address mental health issues around the machete violence in affected communities.

“We have seen a lot of people being killed, you wake up in the morning and see dead bodies of people who have been mutilated by these machete-wielding gangs and this has a negative impact psychologically,” Dr Madzorera said.

Though the government is a signatory to the Abuja Declaration which calls for the government to allocate about 15 percent of their budgets to health the call still seems a pipe dream for the country.

According to the Ministry of Health and Childcare, there are at least 1, 3 million people living with mental challenges in Zimbabwe and machete violence seems to be adding to the growing burden.

Currently, there are only 20 registered clinical psychologists and nine public mental health institutions for a country with a population of over 14 million.

Zimbabwe has sought to address mental health through the introduction of the Mental Health Act in 1976 (revised in 1996) and the Zimbabwe National Health Policy introduced in 2004.

According to the health ministry, mental illness particularly depression are substantial public health issues in Zimbabwe, with depression being one of the leading causes of morbidity and disability.

Clinical psychologist Noreen Wiri-Dari machete says violence and any other form of violence harm societies.

“Violence exposure leads to aggression. We will then raise children who are prone to wanting to fight. We will have people who would want to solve any conflict with fighting which then affects us as communities and as generations.

“The next generation is receiving trauma from the previous generations. Another effect is that we will also have people who can become depressed.

She explained that victims of machete violence often experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Wiri-Dari added that the adverse mental effects on machete victims include poor academic performance for children and anxiety for the general population.

Zimbabwe Psychologists Association (ZPA) describe machete violence as a sign of a community in deep emotional turmoil.

“Due to the socio-ecological cues of resource scarcity and perceived low socio-economic status, people undergo a psychological shift thereby, exhibiting poor self-control, dis-inhibition of impulses and focusing on the here and now not thinking about the future and consequences of their behaviour in the “uncertain future,” as they perceive it,” ZPA said.

Dr Ntombizakhe Moyo-Nyoni from the department of Peace Studies at Midlands State University said if the behaviour of machete violence perpetrators is left unchecked it will create problems for future generations.

“The behaviour if left unchecked will be transferred to the next generation. Usually, unresolved trauma is transferred to the next generations,” she said.

Depression and anxiety disorders according to World Health Organisation (WHO) cost the global economy US$1 trillion per year.

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