In 2004 CCMT completed a research that looked into the possibilities of a community driven reconciliation process for Zimbabwe. One of the main lessons that emerged from this process was the fact that the national level conflicts that had affected communities across Zimbabwe since colonial times, had in many cases, been given their colour and texture by the discordant relationships that were already existing in the various communities they were being played out in.
Based on these findings, the CCM team undertook to design trainings to equip ordinary community members with skills to deal with the day to day conflicts ordinary people experienced daily. The idea was that, if national level conflicts were to be played out at community level their intensity would be reduced if good relationships would exist in the community.
Establishing the groups
By 2007 CCMT had overwhelmingly established ten associations in the three provinces of Harare, Masvingo and Midlands. The idea of establishing and supporting these associations had not been a part of the original concept but was an idea that emerged from the first group that was trained in Mbare; who after the second training in mediation skills, decided that they wanted to offer these services to the community not as individuals but as a coordinated entity that could support the efforts of team members and ensure that a quality service was being offered to the community.
The group requested CCMT to support their work and thus began CCMT’s establishment and support of community based conflict management associations. Associations were born in Chitungwiza and Epworth. In recognition of the pivotal role women play in the resolution of conflicts both traditionally and as caregivers within the community, associations were established specifically for women in Kuwadzana, Mabvuku /Tafara and Highfeil. Expansion beyond Harare saw four associations being established in Gweru and Masvingo, two in Mkoba North and Mkoba South and two in Rujeko and Mucheke.
The training areas
The project saw the associations having their skills continuously developed through various trainings. Through the years training was received in basic conflict transformation, mediation skills and sustained dialogue, and in an effort to support the administrative functions of the associations, skills and support were given in the areas of leadership and governance and financial administration. The Associations’ journey of learning mirrored that of CCMT as the skills that were being acquired by staff members as the organisation grew were being immediately shared with the associations, so much so that some of the associations specifically Epworth, Mkoba North and south and Rujeko and Mucheke, began carrying out direct interventions into community conflicts using the dialogue method even before CCMT began to carry these out.
The Associations have had success in convening dialogues on issues that their communities have identified as in need of resolution, like electricity and water supply, conflicts in community schools and increasing rates and poor service delivery.
By the time CCMT embarked on its new strategy of providing Conflict transformation services to communities, the work the organisation was now carrying out depended heavily on the lessons taught to us by the associations through the dialogues that they had convened in the communities. It was a clear case of the student now instructing the teacher, it was clear that the associations had come of age, and it was now time to begin the preparations for them to chart their own way forward.
From 2010 – 11 CCMT and the Associations began preparing for their independence, it was a busy time as work was being carried out on not only refining dialogue facilitation skills and administrative skills but on ensuring that the associations had the requisite paper work to operate independently either as Community based organisations, Private voluntary organisations or as registered Trusts. It has also been important to ensure that each association has the required authorisation of district and local authorities to operate freely in the community as their work requires them not only to bring together residents but local leaders from various institutions including councils and the District administrators and government authorities.
July 1st 2011 marked the day that the associations became officially independent. It was a day that both CCMT and the associations faced with both anxiety and excitement, as the question on what the future holds was on all our minds. Despite the trepidation we are sure that the journey that has brought us to where we are now is only at its beginning as the associations beacon of hope is bright enough for them to light the way for their communities to deal with conflicts constructively.