Lived experiences of the internally displaced human rights defenders in Zimbabwe

Madisha, Brenda
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This qualitative study explores the lived experiences of internally displaced Human Rights Defenders (IDHRDs) in Zimbabwe. Participants in this study were selected using purposeful sampling technique. The experiences of six IDHRDs were gathered using semi-structured in depth interviews. The study analysed data using thematic analysis. Data analysis revealed that IDHRDs experienced socio-economic and political challenges. Regarding their socio-economic and political challenges, the participants revealed that their displacement led to precarious livelihoods. They earned income from their different professions, but displacement resulted in not only loss of jobs but also loss of income. The coping mechanisms in place were not adequate for them. They received support from civil society organisations by means of grant support, but the mechanisms were inadequate. The grant support was not enough, and it did not last for as long as they were internally displaced. For those who could find employment, the employment opportunities were of low standard and disempowering. They engaged in activities such as illegal mining and manual labour. Those activities provided them with low and disempowering income. The money they received was less than the income they earned before being internally displaced. Furthermore, an activity like illegal mining could get the participant arrested. The findings reveal that participants had difficulties in integrating with members of the host community because of trust issues and safety concerns. The findings reveal that even when the host community members welcomed IDHRDs in the host community, participants felt that intentionally or unintentionally, the host community members could reveal their whereabouts. Another challenge the study reveals is that being internally displaced had an impact on IDHRDs’ psychosocial wellbeing. Not having their families with them and lack of support from their families negatively impacted them. They blamed the government saying had the ruling party not been repressive, they would not have experienced those challenges. Despite the repressive regime being at the root of their challenges, the findings reveal that IDHRDs have intentions to return to community of origin. The intentions to return were in an attempt to receive their pre-displacement economic opportunities, to be reunited with their families and to rebuild their lives by finding new employment.
A research report submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree Master of Arts in Migration and Displacement to the Faculty of Humanities, School of Social Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, 2022