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Introduction
 
Barbara is a teacher at a primary school near Bindura. She tells BBC News Online how political violence has changed the way she lives and works.

Life changed after February 2000. That's when we had the referendum on the new constitution. Then came the Parliamentary elections. Before that, everything was fine. You could talk, argue and discuss politics.

But in 2000, the violence started. Violence itself was nothing new. I began noticing it in 1984 - the year I voted for the very first time. People were being beaten up by so-called "comrades" and forced to attend political meetings. But you could still try and reason with the comrades.

Now it is different. The political violence is very bad. The attackers no longer call themselves comrades ("vanamukoma" in local language). Now they are "war veterans". You can see from this name change that they mean business - or perhaps simply mean war.

You can't reason with them any more. You're either with them or against them. And if you're against them, it is impossible to have a normal life. No-one can help you - not even your parents. Today's violence leaves people dead. It is like being in a war.

Avoiding violence

I have learned to live with it, but I am lucky in that people from my area still respect teachers. It's still very difficult though. My life has changed. I used to make two or three visits to Harare each term.

If I did that now, people would ask why I needed to go there so often. They would accuse me of getting money from the MDC to report them.

People are forced to do things they are not interested in doing. Every teacher in my school had to accept a piece of land. If you show no interest you are inviting trouble.

It has become normal to do things simply to avoid violence. There are many political meetings and you have to attend them and talk about land distribution, election contributions and so on.

It is dangerous to have visitors. Strangers and unfamiliar cars are no longer welcome in my area. This poses a great problem for families.

If someone dies, it takes days to ensure that fathers and mothers will be able to enter town and bury their dead in peace. It is sad for parents to miss a child's burial because it is too dangerous for them to enter Chiveso.

Another issue concerns party cards. I never thought I would buy one, but what is $82 compared to my life? I now have a Zanu-PF card and this should make life easier.

No-one talks to strangers any more because you can't trust them. We still talk amongst ourselves, and sometimes even laugh about what is going on. But really, it is sad.

Teachers are able to earn extra money working as election officials. My colleagues have become more active in seeking such jobs. I doubt my headmaster will put my name forward as a candidate. I go to Harare too often.

But life goes on. I cannot wait for the elections to be over. Perhaps then I will be able to live a normal life, to sleep well, attend fewer meetings, and be less afraid of strangers.


Today's violence leaves people dead. It is like being in a war



People are forced to do things they are not interested in doing. Every teacher in my school had to accept a piece of land

Political meetings
No-one talks to strangers any more because you can't trust them

Political meetings
 
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