Security means uncurling my toes….


By EverJoice Win

What does security mean to you? That was the question surrounding this year’s 16 days of activism theme. Militarism, conflict, state sponsored violence, political violence, were some of the sub-themes we campaigned on. We talked about the big stuff, the big news tickets of the moment. The news coming out of Syria continues to be unbearable. Libya is still on the boil. In the DR Congo, thousands are fleeing across the borders, fearing for their lives as the election results are about to be announced. In Burma, Hillary Clinton smiled for the cameras and got paly-paly with the generals, temporarily shorn of their uniforms for better picture quality. In various Northern capitals anti capitalist protestors were carted off the streets, sometimes violently. At COP17, things got ugly and civil society had to be shoved back into their small allotted space. The wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan rage on. None of these places is too far away or too foreign. I know women there. I have met them. I know their names. They are my friends. I worry about them. I text. I email. I Skype them. Just to make sure they are ok. Being a global citizen means you curl your toes each time you watch the news.

The so called ‘security forces’ and law enforcement agencies continue to frighten me and other women out of our wits. In my home number two, the South African Police service decided that adopting militarised titles and ranks was the way to…..what? Instill discipline? Show seriousness? Give the service more gravitas? Induce fear? Each time I enter Rosebank police station to get my documents certified, I am greeted by a “colonel”, and sometimes a “lieutenant” looks over his shoulder. I clutch my bags in fear. I smile feebly and answer their questions with too many words, and run out as soon as I can. Thankfully I have never had to report a crime, or ask to be taken to a place of safety by these “soldiers”, because I just don’t know where they would take me! I don’t feel secure with a police man called “general”, no matter how much he smiles, or tries to convince me he is here for my protection.

In home number one, my state President goes by the grand title of, “Comrade Robert Mugabe, the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, the First Secretary of ZANU PF and commander in chief of the armed forces”. This for a man with seven (well earned), University degrees! If he needed any accolades he has the BA, BA Hons, etc to pick from. Being told that the president is the commander in chief of the armed forces is not meant to make me respect the man. It says, ‘Be very afraid. He has guns. Pointed at your head. One move we don’t like and we pull the triggerS”. I know who is in control. And if I forget I am reminded on the hour every hour by the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation.

I curl my toes. I draw my knees together. That is the effect men in uniform have on me. The military industrial complex announces itself, advertises itself and reminds us ‘they’ are in control of our countries, our lives, our bodies.

But it is not only these visible manifestations of our militarised world that make me insecure. Going to the supermarket makes me frightened. I am scared to see the price of food. I worry about whether there will be enough month left at the end of the money. I am too scared to ask a woman with three children how she lives on a twenty dollars per month wage. Yesterday I took my son to a doctor and she asked for 50 dollars just to write a referral note to the radiographer. In the space of two weeks I have buried two women, both aged 44, both died from diseases that could have been easily managed. I don’t fear death. I fear an undignified and painfully unnecessary death, such as I have seen countless times around me.

Two days ago I met a beautiful young person who identifies themselves as trans-gender. I immediately started worrying about how she was going to get out of that hotel back to her home in the township. What hoops she would have to navigate to ensure her own safety. I keep hearing the hateful sermons preached at one of those funerals I went to, “these ngochani are an abomination! We must cast the devils out of them! If you are a ngochani come forward so we pray for you!” I keep curling my toes and drawing my knees up.

A lot can happen in 16 days. And it did! So we come to the end of this year’s 16 days of activism against gender based violence. It has been an amazing two decades of organising by women, and a few good men, all over the world. To hear some talk today you would think they invented the campaign and made us women too while they were at it. Well let us not go there. I suppose we should just be happy that what started off as an idea, almost a pipe dream, with only 24 women, has grown to be one of the most well known global campaigns. Who says the feminist movement is small, insignificant and the changes it has brought can’t be “measured. If anybody had asked us on that bright summer day at Rutgers, what will success look like? How will you measure it? I don’t think we would have been able to provide an answer, let alone imagine that this is what the 16 days campaign would achieve. Hear yea, monitoring and evaluation zealots. This is what success looks like!

So what does security mean to me? It means uncurling my toes, unclenching my knuckles, free of fear – real or imagined, and living a life of dignity, experiencing sexual and other kinds of pleasure, and having the right to make choices.

Women’s economic development and upliftment is key to reducing abuse


By Fortune Madhuku

Looking back in history, parents never prioritised educating the girl child. Society believed educating a girl child was a waste of resources. The assumption was that the girl would as soon get married and the husband would take over as the provider of everything the wife needed. But the times have changed now. Girls and women have proved to be as hard-working as boys and men. They have proved how independent they can be without relying on their partners for support. But this is only possible if they are given the opportunity to get an education.

It is wrong to teach girls that they do not need to work hard in school to guarantee themselves a better life. It is destructive to socialise them into thinking that their future is guaranteed by getting a husband who takes over the responsibility of their upkeep.  It is evil to make young girls believe that their gateway to success is finding a rich husband who can provide anything they desire. It is also dangerous to create this impression as it puts women at the mercy of their husbands, with no education or jobs. Yet, some amongst us have no qualms about telling this to young girls, poisoning their minds.

Many women consider being in a relationship to be the best thing to ever to happen to them. However, the imagined bliss deriving from relationships is not always pleasant. Millions of women endure never ending abuse perpetrated by their intimate partners.

In Zimbabwe, while measures have been put in place to assist victims of abuse, the major highlight being the enactment of the Domestic Violence Act in 2007, very few women come forward to seek justice. They consider it better to remain in abusive relationships than to opt out and face economic hardships and possibly extreme poverty and homelessness.

This is because many women in our society remain economically disadvantaged. They have not been developed and uplifted to be in a position where they can fend for themselves and earn income to sustain themselves and live decent lives.  To them, husbands are like demi-gods on whom their lives depend. Some women are comfortable with being house-keepers and child bearers while men are the breadwinners. However, these situations are only good when the relationship is pleasant, but when things turn sour most of these women face terrible abuse. They also find it hard to leave the abusive husbands as this would mean wallowing in abject poverty.

Most women do know that they can always report abusive husbands to the police and get them arrested. With heightened education on domestic violence and remedies available, women have most of the information they need but many cases of violence go unreported or get withdrawn. This is because women fear what will happen to them and the children if the bread winner is put behind bars. In some cases, women fear that if they report the husband the next thing is that he  will file for divorce. Without a husband and bread winner, life becomes unbearable to the women who cannot provide for themselves.

It’s surprising to find some women who know very well that their husbands are promiscuous and sleep around with any women they lay their hands on but the women still stay in those relationships. Although they appreciate the risk of contracting HIV and other STIs from their husbands, they still hang in there because they fear a bleak future if they leave their husbands. You hear some women saying ‘’kusiri kufa ndekupi’’ meaning either way it’s hard for them.

Women and girls should be encouraged to work hard in life. Parents should ensure that they educate both the boy and girl child. Girls particularly need much more attention as they grow up so that they are not swayed out of the way. If more and more women are educated so that they can stand on their own this can reduce abuse. It has been proven that women can succeed and reach great heights in life. In Zimbabwe we have a great number of women who have made it in life and occupy influential positions. Names that quickly come to mind are Grace Muradzikwa, the Chief Executive Officer of Nicoz Diamond Insurance, Dr Hope Sadza, the Vice Chancellor of the Women’s University and Dr Charity Dhliwayo, the Deputy Governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, among thousands others. These women have shown that the fairer sex can be much more that house keepers and child bearers, but important players both in the home and the outside world.

Husbands in relationships should develop and uplift their wives if they have not achieved anything before marriage. One way to show love is to educate the wife and develop her so that she can have a life and not depend on the husband for everything. In times of economic challenges like this in Zimbabwe where many companies are retrenching, one never knows the day that the woman will come to the rescue and provide for the family. At least when both the husband and wife are working there is a fallback position should the unfortunate happen.

It is unfortunate that many men are not comfortable being in a relationship with successful women who can stand on their own. They think it may be difficult to override such independent women in family decision making. But just imagine what will happen to the family if the husband, being the bread winner dies or is incapacitated. The whole family left behind suffers and with the woman only able to do menial jobs, more abuse awaits as we have seen vendors and other women who survive on menial jobs facing harassment of different kinds from the authorities. And the cycle of abuse continues as girl children end up marrying just to have someone provide for them. So, a family is in a better position with uplifted women who can provide for the family and stand on their own.

Society should really develop and uplift women so that they can stand on their own and not endure abusive relationship just because extreme poverty awaits should they opt out.

To Obert and His Boys: Passengers have Rights


By Rumbidzai Dube

Zimbabwe is commemorating the 16 days of activism against gender based violence, and the key message is “From Peace in the Home to Peace in our communities: ‘Promoting safe spaces for women and girls.’ Safe spaces are secure spaces. They are spaces in which human security-the totality of all conditions that make a human being feel secure-is guaranteed. They are spaces in which women and girls are free from fear and free from want. These spaces are about the protection of women and girls from unnecessary harm and exposure to risky circumstances. The majority of women, men and children in Zimbabwe use the public transport system and the levels of risk they are exposed to within that system have precipitated my blog.

Sometime in March, while aboard a New York taxi, I learnt that there is something called the Livery Passengers’ Bill Of Rights. The Bill gives passengers the following rights to:

  1. Ride in a car that is clean, in good condition and has passed all required inspections.
  2. Be driven by a TLC (Taxi and Limousine Company) licenced driver in good standing whose licence is clearly displayed.
  3. A safe and courteous driver who obeys all traffic laws.
  4. A quiet trip. Free of horn honking and audio/radio noise.
  5. Receive a fair quote from the dispatcher and pay that amount for your ride (unless the fare changed).
  6. A driver who does not use a cell phone while driving (hands free phones are not permitted).
  7. A smoke and scent free ride.
  8. Air conditioning or heat on request.
  9. Working seatbelts for all passengers (please use them!).
  10. Not share a ride unless you want to.
  11. Be accompanied by a service animal.
  12. Decline to tip for poor service.

I am sure many Zimbabweans are wondering how passengers in New York can have as many rights in their transport Bill of Rights as we have in our constitutional Bill of Rights? What we need to interrogate is why New York chose to make what seems like a very unimportant issue so very important.

First of all, in New York as in Zimbabwe the majority of people cannot afford owning cars. Whereas in New York buying a car is not as difficult as maintaining it (including the taxes and parking fees), many Zimbabweans simply cannot afford cars. That is why a functional public transport system is critical.

Second, the ability to access a clean, safe and secure alternative mode of transportation is central to guaranteeing the safety of the residents of New York. It is also central to the productivity and development of the city as residents commute between their homes and work, 24 hours a day.Similarly, Zimbabwe needs a functional system to keep our economy going.

The more I have listened to the grievances about combis (commuter omnibuses) and the service they give to my fellow Zimbabweans, the more I have wondered how many of them would be out of business if a similar bill of rights existed in Zimbabwe.

  1. Clean car in good condition: How many times have you been in a dirty combi or taxi, dusty even that you had to use tissue to wipe the seat before you sat? How many times have you seen combis and taxis that look like they want to fall over on one side? How many times also have you been in a combi or taxi that feels like the moment the driver changes the gears, that is the last sputter that the combi is going to give then die…on the spot? The combis are health hazards, so much that if anyone gets a cut from the edges of the folded aisle seats while dropping off or getting onto the combi, they need to get an immediate Tetanus shot.
  2. Licenced drivers: We know that many combi and taxi (mshikashika) drivers are unlicensed. In investigations following one of the accidents in Chitungwiza, it emerged that the driver was unlicensed. The majority of those who are currently licensed need a retest because they either procured their licenses through fraudulent means and never actually had proper driving tests or they have been driving hazardously for so long they have forgotten what the correct and proper procedures on the road are. When they get to the police and are asked for a licence, they produce a piece of paper with $5 or $10 or $20 stuck in the middle and police officers immediately forget what they were asking for.
  3. A safe and courteous driver who obeys traffic laws: That is something you do not see among combi and taxi drivers. What you see are near death experiences in which 98% of the time the combi drivers are in the wrong. Passengers sit and grit their teeth as their drivers overtake where there are continuous lines (clearly saying do not overtake), break the rules and drive up the wrong lanes in opposing traffic, shoot through red robots (traffic lights), filter into traffic at the wrong time forcing other drivers to hit their emergency brakes, skip over speed humps (not slowing down as they should) and turn dangerously close in front of oncoming traffic. I always say, if our roads had traffic cameras, which award automatic fines to a license plate as penalties for every road traffic offence, then our government would not need to tax us (law abiding citizens). They would generate all the revenue needed just from traffic fines.
  4. A quiet trip. Free of horn honking and audio/radio noise: This is one right where those who use public transport daily would agree with me that the adage “if wishes were horses then beggars would ride” applies. From the loud urban grooves sounds of Stunner singing “Tisu Mashark,” to the Zim Dancehall vibes of “Tocky Vibes” and the legendary Winky D, to the lewd sounds of Jacob Moyana singing “Munotidako,” the combi drivers “blast” (literally) the music. They play the music so loudly that anyone trying to have a conversation has to shout. Some drivers are courteous enough to turn down the volume when they see a passenger talking on the phone but the majority could not be bothered. When passengers sometimes request they turn down the volume they are told “Tenga yako kana usingade zvenoise” –“Buy your own car if you have a problem with the noise.”
  5. Receive a fair quote from the dispatcher and pay that amount for your ride (unless the fare changed)-The dog eat dog mentality that has permeated our society also affects public transport operators. Although certain fares are known i.e. it should cost $0.50 from the city centre to any residential surburbs in Harare using combis, the combis always take every opportunity available to charge more. If it is raining the fare goes up to a $1, during rush hour when everyone wants to go home-suddenly the fare also goes up to $1, if there is a big event somewhere (a soccer match, a Makandiwa judgement day) suddenly all operators want to carry passengers to that route reducing the numbers of buses available on the normal route-those that remain want to charge $1 because those going to the “hot and busy” route also charge $1. Nobody constantly monitors and enforces fares.
  6. A driver who does not use a cell phone while driving (hands free phones are not permitted): Dream on! Some drivers do not only talk on the phone as they drive, they even text; what with all this WhatsApp business.
  7. A smoke and scent free ride: Luckily Zimbabwe has very strict laws against public smoking and so in this instance public transport users are covered. I can’t say the same for the smell issue though because the buses are not always clean. Sometimes the problem and source of discomfort is not with the bus itself but the sweaty armpit of the conductor, stuck in someone’s nose as the conductor squeezes himself tightly between the door and the passenger on the edge of the first seat behind the driver’s seat.
  8. Air conditioning or heat on request: Again, dream on! Some combis and taxis do not even have functional windows; the windows are broken, missing, stuck and won’t open, not proper windows but rather cardboard paper or furniture boards. The ventilation is either poor creating a stifling environment or the wind lashes the passengers’ faces.
  9. Working seatbelts for all passengers: What seatbelts? This is why in many accidents the passengers on the front seat fly though the windscreens while the driver survives. At police roadblocks, the police are concerned with the driver putting on his seatbelt and are not bothered about the safety of the passengers seating next to the driver without their seatbelts on. RATIONALE: the driver can pay a bribe if he is caught not wearing his seatbelt; it is harder to solicit for bribes from passengers-you never know who they are, right?
  10. Not share a ride unless you want to: Huh! Dream on. Not only are passengers forced to share but they share with more people than is necessary. Packed like sardines, seats that should accommodate 3 people have 4 people on them. The situation gets worse if one of the passengers is a big person; never mind if there are two big people in one row of seats. They end up squashed to each other, literally sharing body fluids (sweat). I used to shout at the drivers many times when they tried to fit a 4th person in the front seat. It was bad enough that the seatbelts were dysfunctional and the risk of flying out through the windscreen if the driver suddenly applied his brakes was high, but to share the seat meant for two people with a 3rd person, practically sitting on your lap was an added annoyance.
  11. Be accompanied by a service animal: Service animals are specially trained animals (mostly dogs)meant to help people with disabilities e. g. visual impairment, hearing impairment, mental illness, diabetes, autism, seizures and others. This greatly improves the safety and security of persons living with disabilities as they navigate their way using public transport. In Zimbabwe, not only do we not have such service animals but as it is animals are not allowed on public transport. Besides the animals, fellow human beings are not very helpful to the disabled. Many combis avoid carrying paraplegics arguing that they have no space for wheelchairs; when it truth they want to use that space to carry goods that will get them more money.
  12. Decline to tip for poor service: Well we don’t have to worry about this one because the service is guaranteed to be poor. No tips coming! Or going!-whatever the case may be.

Clearly the combi structure of providing public transport in Zimbabwe is problematic on many levels.

  • There is no uniformity in the quality of service.
  • There is no guarantee that passengers will get their change as some conductors assault or insult passengers for demanding change.
  • There is no guarantee how long the trip will take as there are no strict timetables.
  • The combis are not maintained to the same standard. Some buses are fully serviced while others have broken seats, torn interiors, missing windows.
  • The system of licensing is not properly monitored as the police take bribes instead of enforcing the law.
  • The buses are overcrowded.
  • The fares are not strictly standardised, monitored and enforced.

What is the solution?

The Minister of Transport, Obert Mpofu suggested banning the combis. But to me that pseudo-solution would only create more problems. The reality is that:

  • Combis constitute the largest transport providers for the majority of Zimbabweans on local routes within cities, between urban centres, between urban and rural centres and some even across borders.
  • Combis are a source of employment and income for thousands of combi owners, drivers and conductors and their families.
  • In urban centres they also provide employment to a unique group of individuals known as the ‘rank Marshall’s (effectively a group of touts who have dignified their loafing by creating a system of accountability among bus operators by giving them equal turns to ferry passengers in exchange for a $1 for every trip that each combi takes.
  • The dynamics become even more interesting when one observes the organised trade that takes place around the different bus termini known as ‘ranks.’ Vegetable, airtime, food and fruit vendors take advantage of the movement of people to and from the combis to do business.
  • Urban councils charge these combis for parking and this revenue going directly to the local governance structures.

To create a safe and secure transport system that gives men, women and children the dignity they deserve, Obert and his boys should consider creating a bus service (including combis) that operates on timetable and in line with a set list of rules and procedures observing the strictest standards including proper licensing, full insurance, being roadworthy with a cut-off date for the vehicle life span e.g. Anything older than 10 years should be taken off the roads as un-roadworthy! Every combi should have a bin to throw litter in to avoid littering by passengers, all seats should be properly functional –not broken or torn seats, combis should maintain a set level of cleanliness and hygiene in their interior including having functional heating and air-conditioning, every combi should abide by the regulations on maximum number of passengers to be carried; 3 per seat instead of 4, staff that is helpful to the disabled. In other words, an enforceable look-alike to the New York Passengers Bill of Rights would be a welcome development for Zimbabwe to guarantee citizens safety and security on the roads.

Monitoring everything but ourselves


by Daniel Mususa

We have been fighting to end Gender Based Violence for some considerable time now. From the early “we don’t need men anyway” radical feminist approaches in the 1970s, to the contemporary “together as men and women” approaches, we have seen a plethora of programs, projects and schemes aimed at fighting Gender Based Violence. Each one has had its rationale, merits and demerits. And I believe, we have learnt a lot from these phases and have sharpened our arsenal to more effectively understand and address GBV. Gender and Development (GAD), Gender in Development (GID), Women in Development (WID), Women and Development (WAD) etc. the list is endless, as we have incorporated into new designs the strengths of the previous versions and dropped the weaknesses.

In Zimbabwe, in some regards we have moved quite quickly in our acceptance of plans to improve the situation of women, than many countries. The majority of women are allowed to drive, to go to work, get paid maternity leave, can wear what they want and can be  whoever they want to be and do what they want with their lives, with a good education. Zimbabwe is a signatory tothe Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)-a canon international instrument in the fight against GBV, Domestic Violence and other discriminatory ills that pull women back. Zimbabwe has adopted and quickly operationalised CEDAW and other international conventions and guiding frameworks. In fact, Zimbabwe seems to be ager to become aa signatory to most of these international instruments and codes. Resultantly, the civil movement in its pursuit of women empowerment has been buoyed by the relatively pacy adoption of these codes into actual legislation. From self-help schemes, village level and nationwide micro finance lending schemes, cooperatives and psycho-social support groups, Zimbabwe has benefitted from an array of programs tackling gender issues and addressing the marginalisation of women.

There is every reason to applaud the adoption of international instruments such as CEDAW, the Beijing Conference, efforts to punish perpetrators of GBV, efforts to facilitate dialogue and improve communication between intimate partners. All approaches toward women empowerment have some weaknesses for example, Linda Mayoux discussing microfinance schemes, argues that increasing the money available to women does not necessarily equate to their empowerment. There still remains the question of who, within the household, controls that money? That is the man, the husband from whose clutches and power we are trying to help wrestle the woman. Each approach has its given problems.

We have successfully identified most of the factors and processes responsible for GBV and have evolved strategies to deal with them, to change the wider societal structures that house these processes and to monitor that change. However, we have not dentified and utilised strategies for monitoring our own role as activists/human rights defenders in defining the problem, developing the project design and our Monitoring and Evaluation plans. We can astutely monitor all other variables except this one: Us. We have not developed plans to monitor our personal biases, baggage, our values, beliefs, incompetencies, misconceptions and most importantly, our willingness or lack of it in seeing actual change in our own behaviour, attitudes etc. towards Gender Based Violence.

I have heard civil society actors whisper a “but izvi zve gender nemadzimai hazvinatsoshanda”[…but this gender and women empowerment thing does not really work]. Women’s rights organisations struggle to get their issues prioritized in fora that have so-called human rights minds gathered. In other words, gender concerns are marginalised by those in development work, making the work an industry in which the actors are not sincere, as Hancock puts it.

With this current campaign to end gender based violence coming to an end, we need to address how we are glossing over our deficiencies in ending all forms of GBV by:

  1. Project mentality

We have had an abundance of projects/programs aimed at empowering women to stand up against GBV. Each project has been implemented by one or two organisations on limited funds. Durable solutions can only come out of a process of sustained community engagement to establish contextually, the causes and manifestations of GBV and the best implementation and M& E strategy. Lone projects are just that; lone projects. They end at the end of the money

  1. Lack of co-ordination

There is just an appalling clustering of work on the same thing. In the same communities you find two or three initiatives addressing GBV. The only difference is that one takes a microfinance angle, another on participation, another on constitutional/rights awareness and another on cross border trading. Why not combine forces and come up with a comprehensive thing whose impact and change can be noted over time. After all, GBV is supported by forces such as culture which cannot be moved easily? I remember a Shona adage “Rume rimwe harikombi churu.” Cooperation is key!

  1. Taking one case study as signifying larger societal change

Perhaps because everyone has to show that they are doing “something,” we are guilty of over-glorifying one case/project in we which we think we are doing well. That one “successful” initiative is glorified, put in annual records, pasted on social media, quoted in conferences as if that one case proves everything and shows that we are succeeding in ending GBV. Individual contributions matter, but our combined efforts are what will change the status quo.

  1. We lack studies giving evidence of how social relations that put different people at risk of GBV have changed because of the work we do. There is no literature with substantive numbers and qualitative explanations on how the relations have changed and where. Gender Based Violence has deeper structural foundations than we have been willing and able to monitor. A project cannot change people (both men and women who are benefitting from the current status quo) to suddenly let go of their privileges. GBV is based in culturally ascribed privileges and benefits that present GBV (and Domestic Violence) as ok when perpetrated under certain circumstances e.g. a woman’s refusal to have sexual intercourse with a cheating husband. We need research; a simple feedback report to say one had a meeting with a chief is not proof that the chief’s perceptions and attitudes have changed.
  2. We still have not yet come up with effective measurement mechanisms that tell us how much of our own baggage/beliefs and stereotypes have been reduced in designing, planning, implementing and evaluating our efforts to reduce/eliminate GBV. What we have become so successfully skilled at is measuring how our preconceived variables or “Objectively Verifiable Indicators” as we call them, are changing in the target populations/ among project participants or beneficiaries. We need to evaluate how our own biases taint our approaches to the work we do.

Going forward, we now need to target GBV where it is in the communities, not just where just it is easiest to reach. This includes developing tailored strategies to reach marginalised populations more effectively to gather their views on what we do including those who drop out of our projects. We need to hear why they think what we do is not worth their time, because it really may not be worth anything to them. Are we willing to hear these stories? To make durable change we need to stop monitoring everything else but ourselves. Our eyes should be on ourselves just as they are on our project beneficiaries. We cannot end Gender Based Violence if we are unwilling to look at our own shortcomings as men, women, communities and women’s rights defenders.

Silenced voices at home; orators abroad-the universality of justice


By Kuda Chitsike

One of the major reasons, leading to the negotiation of the Global Political Agreement was that violence during the run off period had reached unprecedented levels. Approximately 200 people were killed, thousands displaced and assaulted, but there was no mention of the rape that women suffered. It is well known that there was widespread violence, but what is less known is that sexual violence was perpetrated against women as a political strategy.  Previously, there was a lot of anecdotal evidence but no proper documentation was available in the aftermath of the election. Civil society organisations, including women’s groups were hesitant to talk publicly about politically motivated rape, even though survivors were seeking refuge in their organisations and their horror stories were known. The silence of the women’s groups muted the voices of the survivors; if well-established organisations were unwilling to speak on their behalf, who would listen to their individual voices? But as time went on the survivors of rape became bold, began speaking out about their experiences during the election period, and demanded to be heard and taken seriously.

The first public report on sexual violence in Zimbabwe during the election period was written by an American-based organisation, AidsFreeWorld, ‘Electing to Rape: Sexual Terror in Mugabe’s Zimbabwe.’ This report was released in December 2009 and it was based on 70 affidavits collected from women who were survivors of rape and were living in South Africa and Botswana where they felt free to speak.  A second report was produced by the Research and Advocacy Unit (RAU) and the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR) in 2010, entitled, ‘No Hiding Place: Politically Motivated Rape of Women in Zimbabwe.’  In these two reports, women reported that they were repeatedly raped and beaten for their support of the MDC, whether perceived or real, as the perpetrators told them so during the ordeal. Some stated that this happened in front of their children and family members, and, as a result of the rape, their marriages broke down. Most of the women did not receive appropriate care for the trauma that they had experienced. The women exhibited high levels of sleeplessness, nightmares, flashbacks, and hopelessness: symptoms, which are commonly associated with experiences of trauma.

These two reports gave credence to the claims that the women were making about politically-motivated sexual violence, and the issue could no longer be ignored.

The recently released findings of the Khampepe report supported what Zimbabwean organisations have been saying for the last 14 years, violence and intimidation are part and parcel of elections.  This report has implications for Zimbabwean women who lodged a case in 2012 in the South African courts with the support of AidsFreeWorld. The women brought their case to a South African court because they had failed to get any recourse in Zimbabwe. When they tried to report their cases to the police they were either turned away, told that the police were not dealing with political violence cases, or told by the police that they gor what they deserved. Sometimes the police outrightly  refused to open dockets, which effectively meant the women were unable to go for medical examinations.

AidsFreeWorld submitted an amicus brief to the South African courts after a case was brought by the Zimbabwean Exiles’ Forum and the Southern African Litigation Centre in 2008 on behalf of MDC supporters who alleged that they were tortured by ZANU PF supporters and state agents. On 30th October 2014, the Constitutional Court in South Africa ruled that the South African Police Service (SAPS) is obliged to investigate crimes against humanity “where the country in which the crimes occurred is unwilling or unable to investigate.” The ruling is based on the fact that South Africa is obliged to investigate because it signed and domesticated the Rome Statute on the establishment of the International Criminal Court.

This ruling has given hope to the Zimbabwean women who were brave enough to tell their stories. Unfortunately not all perpetrators will be brought to justice, but it sends the right message; that sexual violence will not be tolerated in any society for any reason.

Had the election report, which was compiled by the high court judges Sisi Khampepe and Dikgang Moseneke, been released when it was compiled it is highly probable that 2008 might never have happened as a government of national unity could have been negotiated in 2002. The Kamphepe report supported other observers’ groups that stated that there was serious election violence and it would have added to international pressure to end the Zimbabwean crisis.

As we commemorate the 16 days of gender activism, there is hope that justice will be delivered and that the victims of election violence, particularly the victims of rape that have not been acknowledged will get the redress they deserve. Although their voices may have been largely silenced at home, they can get justice abroad-proving that justice is a universal principle and that no atrocity committed against another human being can be hidden forever.

You can’t defeat gender violence without solidarity amongst women.


By Tony Reeler 

Women discriminate and degrade one another, they are overcome by jealousy and dont like other women to be promoted.” (Woman from Chivhu)

One of the major problems that blocks effective action in stopping gender violence is the lack of solidarity among women, what some have called the PhD syndrome – “pull her down”. It is not a trivial problem, and, over the years, Zimbabwean women have raised this as a problem. Some of this lack of solidarity seems to be derived from women’s lack of confidence in themselves. In the Mass Public Opinion Institute gender survey in 2002, only 29% of women stated that “women are more receptive to women leaders.”And in answer to the question, “in your opinion, do women pull each other down?”, 75% of women answered in the affirmative.

So, women are not in favour of women leaders, and, those that are, probably cannot count on the support of their fellow women. But maybe things have changed since 2002?

Actually, no!

In 2013, a majority (94%) of the sample of women stated in research done by RAU and The Women’s Trust (TWT) that they would vote for a woman candidate, which is encouraging, but this was minimised by their responses to two other questions. There were differences between rural and urban women, but the trend was apparent. Nearly half (49%) of rural women, and more than half (58%) of urban women, felt that there were so few women parliamentary candidates because of the PhD syndrome. As for support, only 38% of rural women and 21% of urban women felt that older women had done a great job in supporting younger women.

Added to this picture, the Afrobarometer survey in 2012 demonstrated quite dramatically that nothing had changed since the MPOI survey in 2002. 89% of rural women and 91% of urban women stated in the affirmative to the question, do men make better leaders than women?

So, how can solidarity work when women hold such contradictory views? They want more representation, but do not believe that those women that they might elect will be as good as the men. They want to elect women, but believe that women won’t get elected because women themselves will not only support other women, but will actively undermine them. And they don’t believe that older women do much in encouraging younger women.

Why should this be the case? Well, we see the symptoms. The disease is diagnosed quite simply by some women from a focus discussion group in 2010:

Usually in our culture women dont decide for themselves, youre supposed to seek permission first from your husband so that you can do something. Secondly those women who participate in politics mostly are labelled prostitutes. So you wont feel comfortable if youre a woman and say you want to become an MP or something, they will say, “look at that prostitute so it discourages women from participating. And in our culture we always know that men are leaders so its another factor which discourages us. The other problem is our patriarchal societies, the cultural beliefs in our society, women think that they are inferior and cannot stand on their own. Sometimes its fear of the unknown and sometimes it is ignorance.” (Women from civic group)

Excerpts from my diary


By Lindani Chirambadare

Dear Diary…

Today, as I was walking along Robert Mugabe Way, I witnessed sudden commotion as women balancing wares on their heads and carrying babies on their backs ran for dear life. I heard; ‘kanzuru, kanzuru! ‘(Council police! Council Police!). I looked back and saw a man’s wares being taken away. I imagined he was a family man; and that his family was waiting eagerly for him to provide for them. I imagined hope- the hope that he could be the kind of father who can provide for his family die in his eyes like a smothered candle wick. I imagined that one of those women, running for dear life was a widow, or a single mother, or an orphan heading a family.

One thing is certain, these women and men were trying to make an honest living the only way they know how. They were struggling to provide for their families. I remember how my own widowed grandmother raised her own children through vending. I, as other members of my family, benefitted- directly or indirectly- from that labour of love. Just like my grandmother, the women and men I saw today, were trying to make something out of their children’s lives, for them to be counted among others.

I am asking myself many questions as I write. Have the people in Council forgotten why they were elected? Have they lost touch with the reality that they were chosen to make the lives of these very same people they harass each day better? Are their actions making these women’s lives more secure or have they become the cause of their insecurity?

My heart bleeds for these men and women and yes I am shedding the solitary tear. I ask myself, what can I possibly do to change their lives? Right now, today, all I can do is tell their story but maybe someday…

Dear Diary…

On Fridays I finish work early. I usually cannot wait for Fridays because I just rush home to sleep and wind down. Last Friday however, I could not go home early because the combi (commuter omnibus) fare had risen by 100%. I had to wait for those mshikashika combis because they charged me less. To say that I was angry is an understatement. To say that I was pained is to belittle the emotion I felt. I stood there with many people who were as stumped as I was that the kombi fare had risen dramatically because the City Council in its wisdom required them to use the Coventry road terminus. I approached City of Harare representatives at the terminus and asked them why the fare had been hiked. They said it was none of their business. They said they were there just to implement what they had been told to do. They instructed me to talk to the combi owners. I did. The combi owners told me upfront; they were not passing a chance to  fares was and since there were no gazetted fares from the Road Motor Transport regulator at Mukwati Building, they were going to charge what they want.  I, the consumer, had no recourse whatsoever.

I looked at the old men and women around me who were stranded.  They were already cash strapped. Paying the usual five rand required by the Mshikashika combis was already hard for them. They were already too broke to go home, too broke to buy food or even water. Asking them to pay extra was milking them dry.  For a moment I thought; just pay the damn dollar and go home to rest. Heck, I needed some rest. But then again paying that dollar meant allowing this madness to continue. The right thing to do was to be part of a small civil resistance group, to stand in solidarity with others against the madness and refuse to pay the extra amount. And that is what I did.

Dear Diary…

Our very lives are trouble. Some may think there are bigger issues out there that I should worry about but these are the things that happen every day and in one way or another, they compromise my security. They make me feel unsafe. I wonder, does the Harare city council understand what the theme for the 16 days of activism really means? Do they know what it means to create “safe spaces” for women? Do they know that all these things they are doing compromise women’s safety and security?

What should I do? What can I possibly do? Today I will tell the story but maybe one day…