ZANU PF youths yesterday disrupted World Health Day commemorations in Epworth near Harare, claiming the event was being held on land that belonged to them.
BY GARIKAI TUNHIRA
This happened in full view of Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission chairperson Elasto Mugwadi, who described the incident as a sad development.
“The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission has a right to speak about human rights anywhere in Zimbabwe,” Mugwadi said.
Mugwadi, who was guest of honour, added that it was surprising that the councillors, who were mandated to discuss human rights issues, were the ones blocking such topics.
Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR) executive director Calvin Fambirai, whose organisation was hosting the event together with Epworth Residents’ Development Association (ERDA), condemned the action by the youths.
“We deplore political interference in civil society initiatives that seek to enhance the health and wellbeing of residents by seeking to portray such interventions as having political connotations,” Fambirai said.
“Such interference will not go anywhere towards developing communities and improving the livelihoods of residents.”
He said citizens had a right to demonstrate and to gather, so they discuss issues that have a bearing on their lives.
NewsDay Weekender witnessed the fracas, where three Zanu PF supporters, who did not identify themselves, but were clad in the ruling party T-shirts emblazoned with President Robert Mugabe’s face on the front, ordered ERDA director Promise Makaka to wrap up the programme.
Zanu PF councillors identified as Chiromo (ward 2), Chadaya (ward 6), Muchaneta (ward 5) and Mazhandu (ward 1) ordered Makaka to dismiss those present at the function. They said people had to vacate the open space, claiming the event was being held on their land.
“We are protecting our people here. You cannot just budge in and hold your events without notifying us,” Chiromo said.
He claimed due process had not been followed to notify them, regardless of the fact that the march had been cleared by the police, who had provided an escort as well.
The event was being held just next to Epworth Police Station.
Meanwhile the international medical humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has urged the donor community to step up and support mental health activities in Zimbabwe, in order to address major challenges mentally ill patients face in accessing care.
Speaking during the commemoration of World Health Day which coincided with the official opening of Harare Central Hospital Psychiatric Unit, MSF head of mission, Abi Kebra Belaye said: “We see individuals with mental illness and their families suffering in silence. We also see that the donor community seems to have forgotten this group of people and their suffering.”
MSF funded the construction of Harare Psychiatric Hospital and built an out-patient department made up of six consultation rooms, including a paediatric consultation room, patient reception block, pharmacy, waiting area and staff meeting room.
“The most urgent challenges in mental health care in Zimbabwe include critical shortages of psychotropic drugs; a lack of human and financial resources; a lack of funds to maintain mental healthcare facilities; the ongoing social pressure of stigma and discrimination; and an absence of mental health education,” Belaye said. Also of concern was the shortage of mental healthcare specialists including psychiatrists, psychologists, mental health nurses, and occupational and speech therapists.