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Traumatic War Encounters Haunting Former Zimbabwe Freedom Fighters


War veterans say they did not receive any medical help following a grueling war against the colonial government.

War veterans say they did not receive any medical help following a grueling war against the colonial government.

A large number of war veterans, who fought against the colonial government then led by Ian Douglas Smith, are still nursing scars of the war, 35 years later.

Some of the former freedom fighters witnessed the killings of hundreds of people in war fronts in nations like Zambia and Mozambique and on home soil. Those images are still haunting them as they are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. Studio 7’s Marvellous Mhlanga Nyahuye reports …

Irene Zindi, who is now a Zimbabwean parliamentarian joined the liberation struggle when she was a teenager.

Zindi, known by her Chimurenga name – Jilly Flamingo – which she picked after shunning the suggested pseudonym Zvisinei, says she witnessed a lot of killings in Mozambique.

The former freedom fighter, who was one of the first women instructors and political commissars, was under the Zimbabwe African National Union or ZANU’s armed wing - the Zimbabwe African Liberation Army.

Bombings by the Rhodesian armed forces, which left thousands of people killed and maimed in Chimoio and other ZANLA training camps, are still spooking Zindi, who has not yet sought help for constantly relieving the traumatic experiences.

CONFLICT SITUATIONS

Experts say her condition is associated with post-traumatic stress disorder, which normally affects some soldiers who return home after engaging in skirmishes with enemies in the war front.

According to the United Nations Commission for Refugees, this condition affects millions of people in countries where there are armed conflicts. In Zimbabwe, it is associated with mental illness and state institutions provide free healthcare for local patients.

Zindi says despite this free service, she never sought any treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder when she returned from the war front.

COUNSELLING AFTER WAR

Another war veteran Bernard Manyadza, known during the liberation struggle as Parker Chipoyera, says he never thought of getting some counseling or treatment for the traumatizing experience during the war.

For some war veterans seeking treatment to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder was considered a weakness among ex-freedom fighters, leaving them with scars of the war that have almost ravaged their lives.

Psychiatrist, Dr. Sekai Nhiwatiwa, who works in the Ministry of Health based at Parirenyatwa Hospital’s Mental Health Department, says this condition is affecting a large number of Zimbabweans, including war veterans.

Dr. Nhiwatiwa notes most ex-combatants were not aware that they needed to undergo some form of counseling before being integrated into society soon after they returned home.

HEALING WAR SCARS

She says an insignificant number of former freedom fighters underwent professional counseling to heal war scars soon after independence in 1980.

She says it is not too late for them to seek help as it is impossible for post-traumatic stress disorder to disappear without proper health assistance.

Zimbabwe attempted to heal the wounds of former liberation fighters in the 1980s. The process meant to identify only physical body trauma turned into a gravy train as some of them, who claimed that they were extremely disabled yet they could walk, talk and do normal duties, looted the million dollar War Veterans Compensation Fund, leaving it bankrupt. The majority were left nursing post-traumatic stress disorder.

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