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.

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.

Where’s Wally*? Looking for my member of parliament


Since the elections were held in July 2013 I have not received a notice of a meeting called by my Member of Parliament or even heard that he came to the constituency, at least to my ward. A whole year has passed and I am asking myself where is he, what is doing that is keeping him so busy that he does not come? When he is in parliament what issues is he bringing up and/or debating? Whose interests is he representing if he doesn’t come to us the people to find out what our issues are, and how we want them to be addressed?

Every five years we have elections, and, in the last 15 years, I have had the same MP, Dr. Tapiwa Mashakada, but what has he done in my constituency for him to be voted for consecutively? Are we as Zimbabweans voting for a political party rather than for an individual we think can represent our interests and who will work towards getting these interests addressed at a national level? From where I am standing, it looks very much like the former.  Dr. Mashakada has not done much in my constituency to warrant re-election and yet he continues to be elected.  My constituency is well known for water challenges and occasional refuse collection yet people are billed consistently. How then do we raise our issues if we never see the Honourable MP?

In the previous term, Dr. Mashakada was in government as the Minister of Economic Planning and Investment Promotion, so he can be forgiven for not visiting the constituency as often as he should. According to Occasional Visitors: Attendance in the Seventh Parliament of Zimbabwe’ his attendance in parliament between June 2012 and June 2013 was not impressive at 29% and yet he was re-elected. Twenty nine percent is a fail grade under any circumstances, so why is he back in parliament; what did he do to deserve re-election?

There is urgent need for us to understand the roles and responsibilities of MPs; i.e. law-making, fostering public debate, oversight, and representation; this is in accordance with the constitution, section 117 (2) “The legislative authority confers on the legislature the power to:

  1. Amend this Constitution in accordance with section 328;
  2. b)  Make laws for the peace, order and good governance of Zimbabwe; and
  3. c) Confer subordinate legislative powers upon another body or authority in accordance with section 134.”

About a month ago RAU held workshops with approximately 100 women and the majority of them did not know the role of parliament, yet most of them had voted. When asked what they expect from their MP, they said that he/she should attend to ZESA issues, attend functions in the constituency, i.e. weddings and funerals, provide food assistance among others, none of which fall under the broad outline stated above. It is important for the general public to know that MPs are there because we voted them to be our representatives in Parliament; they work for us, and just as we chose them we can as well get rid of them for non-performance.  If we all take the time to understand our governance structures and the constitution, we will take our power back and ensure that MPs are working for us and raising issues that are important to us.  The power resides in us the people and not in the MPs, but this is not as it is perceived or portrayed.  It is critical for the MPs themselves to know that they are there to serve, and not to claim allowances and demand vehicles under the guise of needing them to carry out their duties, yet few of them are serving their constituencies let alone going there.

During the campaign trail, MPs were ubiquitous and full of promises: now that they got what they wanted most of them are nowhere to be seen.  Many will only resurface during the 2018 pre election period.

If you not in parliament or working in the constituency where are you, what are you doing and who are you representing, pray do tell?!

* A series of children’s books created by Martin Handford. In the series children are challenged to find Wally hidden in a group.

#CSW58- MDG 8: Developing Global Partnership for Development


By Rumbidzai Dube

As the era of the MDGs draws to a close-(2000-2015) – one of the things that need paying attention to is; why did we fail to achieve the milestones? Why did Zimbabwe fall short on so many of the indicators? Central to these questions, is the issue of resources. This is because no policy, however brilliant, cannot be successfully implemented without the required financial and human resources. These resources can be attained where there is a clear fundraising strategy. Usually states fundraise through sustained economic growth in areas such as taxation, trade and consequently decreasing debt.

Zimbabwe has seen a steady growth of the GDP since 2009 recovering from the terrible 2007-2009 period of economic decline. However this growth has not translated into increased income in the home. External debt remains high, pegged at 113 % of the GDP. Overall availability of vital medicines has increased although there is low production of drugs, with CAPS-the leading pharmaceutical company- almost shutting down.  There is general improvement in access to cellular networks and internet with about 20% coverage. 65 in every 1000 people have access to a laptop. However the uptake of ICT’s remains largely centralised to the young and urban population. The lack of ICT legislation continues to hamper access.

What have we done well?

  • The Economic Recovery Programme implemented by former Finance Minister, Tendai Biti, emphasised economic and governance reforms which brought stability and recovery to the economy
  • Overall availability of vital medicines has remained stable because of the local production of drugs, enough to actually export some of the drugs.
  • Our creation and use of technology continues to improve; both mobile penetration and internet usage have significantly increased.
  • We are linked to both the Seacom and the EASSy undersea fibre optic cables, developments that have significantly improved our country’s internet connectivity.

What have we not done well?

  • We have no industry to talk of. Our manufacturing sector is still underproductive because of the many challenges it faces such as electricity load shedding and the liquidity crunch.
  • Domestic policy such as indigenisation and land reform, whose implementation is unclear continue to pose a threat to investment resulting in low foreign direct investment
  • Our proud and arrogant stance in our engagement with the international community continues to alienate possible allies in spearheading economic recovery.
  • The health sector still relies heavily on foreign funding, with our main donors being the Unites States, the European Commission, the United Kingdom and Australia. Our own government has not dedicated enough money to fund our health system.
  • We have not taken full advantage of our membership to regional integration initiatives such as COMESA, SADC and EU-ACP; for instance, we have not utilised the fact that SADC is a Free Trade Area which represents a large market to our goods and produce.
  • Although we are producing and exporting vital medicines, they are still expensive for the average person on the ground; as there is a leaning towards protecting the interests of the pharmaceuticals above those of the patients who are just ordinary citizens
  • We do not have an ICT policy to regulate the ICT industry resulting in stunted growth in that area.

What more can we do?

  • We need to re-engage the international community understanding that we live in a global village where we need allies and partners. Re-engagement should not mean begging, we do not need donations- we need good trade relations in which we bargain for the true value of our goods, both processed and raw.
  • We need an ICT policy to cater to the needs of a constantly changing technology landscape
  • We must learn lessons from the region. Rwanda is a good example, especially where the health system is concerned. In just 19 years Rwanda;
    •  increased its life expectancy from 28 years to 56 years;
    • decreased the size of its population living below the poverty line from 77.8% to 44.9%;
    • decreased child deaths from 18% to 6%;
    • increased the size of the population with health insurance from almost 0% to 90.6%;
    • maternal mortality dropped by 60%;
    • HIV,TB and Malaria deaths decreased by close to 80%;
    • The poorest pay nothing to access health care.

We have so much potential as a nation. We do not need aid! We have enough resources. If we deal with corruption, work to redistribute our resources equitably ad ensure that everyone, and not just the big fat-fatty cats continue to benefit, the challenge of failing to implement the MDG’s will cease to exist and be another old archive in the history books.

#CSW58: 1. Reflecting on Zimbabwe’s fulfilment of the MDG’s and mapping the post 2015 Agenda


By Rumbidzai Dube

 

Today, the 10th of March 2014, I find myself here in New York, where one of the biggest events on women’s rights; the 58th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW58) is kicking off. The history of CSW dates back to 21 June 1946, when the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) set up the Commission, whose core function is to promote the rights of women in political, economic, civil, social and educational fields. So every year, representatives of states which are members of the United Nations as well as women’s rights activists gather at the UN Headquarters in New York to assess if any progress has been made in achieving gender equality, to see what challenges remain, to set global standards and be innovative at devising means to formulate promote gender equality and women’s empowerment worldwide.

This year’s CSW comes amid the growing discourse of an Africa that is “rising.” Indeed the dictates of mainstream economics suggest that this is the case. Africa’s economy is said to be growing faster than any other continent’s economy. 33 % of African countries are said to be recording annual gross domestic products (GDP’s) of 6%.  Many predictions have been made by forecasters:

  • By 2015, mobile penetration in Africa would have reached 84%;
  • By 2020, 50 % of African households will be so economically sound that they will have discretionary spending power;
  • By 2030, 50 % of Africa’s populations will be living in urban areas;
  • By 2035, Africa’s workforce will be bigger than China; and
  • By 2050, Africans will make up 25% of the world’s workers.

Analysts are justifying why Africa’s time is now with one Jonathan Berman giving his 7 reasons why Africa’s time is now. I have dared to explain Berman’s idea as I have understood it namely that:

1. Africa has a huge market opportunity.

[Africans love consuming and the fact that our own industry is underdeveloped means we rely heavily on imports hence providing a market for other continents’ goods.]

2. Africa is increasingly stable.

[Though ridden by conflicts as compared to other continents, the trends of conflict in Africa have seen a decrease rather than an increase. Governance patterns are also changing, with the biggest challenge being stolen elections rather than military coups. Previously coups were the norm, with Africa recording an unprecedented 85 violent coups and rebellions from the time of the Egyptian revolution in 1952 until 1998, 78 of these between 1961 and 1997, but more recently coups are uncommon and considered pretty uncool.

3. Africa is recording increased intra-Africa trade although it still is in its infancy.

[Trade within Africa has increased particularly along the lines of the regional blocs which promote regional economic integration. The most successful being the East African Community (Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and Kenya) and the Economic Community of West African States (Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Cote d’Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo) where regional integration is being fostered through, among other thing, the removal of trade barriers such as the requirement of travel documents and other limitations to freedom of movement of people and goods , the creation of a common market, and standardisation of customs tariffs .

4. Africa will soon have the world’s largest workforce.

[Africa’s population is rising so much that in projections to 2030, the African population is expected to peak at 1.6 billion from 1.0 billion in 2010, which would represent 19% of the world’s population. The demographic boom on the continent is expected to be an asset in the form of a workforce, which will drive Africa’s economy forward.

5. 20% of African governments’ budgets are going to education.

[Increasingly, governments are allocating a significant amount of money to education budget lines. This commitment towards the education of African populations will eventually yield results as Africa increases its local technical competence.]

6. Africa’s mobile networking and connectivity is exploding.

[Africa’s mobile network coverage is increasing and more so, spreading to traditionally marginalised communities in the rural areas. This is directly translating into easier and quicker access to information and at the same time the transfer of money more efficiently through mobile banking and cash transfer services such as Ecocash and Telecash in Zimbabwe. Consequently, doing business in a time of mobile phones is much easier and much more efficient as it reduces costs, saves time and increases efficiency].

7. Africa contains most of the world’s uncultivated land.

[ Africa holds almost 50% of the world’s uncultivated land. This is about 450 million hectares of land that is not forested, protected or densely populated. According to the World Bank, if this land is fully utilised by 2030, it could have created a trillion-dollar food market for Africa.]

It is well and good that these positive trends are taking place on the continent, however one question remains largely unanswered; which Africa and who in Africa is rising? Are the women of Africa part of the rising? If so, how many of them are part of it and how many are being left behind? Who is prospering and are the majority of citizens benefitting from the rising?

15 years ago, in 2000, 189 nations made a promise to free people from extreme poverty and many other deprivations culminating in the development of a strategy to eradicate these deprivations. This strategy, to try and address the unequal rising of citizens in different economies, was centralised in the framework of the Millennium Development Goals, (MDGs) a set of goals serving as milestones for all the countries of the world to achieve development in their countries.

MDG 1: This goal focused on eradicating extreme poverty and hunger. Notably, the goal did not seek to achieve the eradication of poverty but extreme poverty.

MDG 2: This goal focused on achieving universal primary education. Notably, the goal is not to ensure universal education at levels relevant to increasing citizens’ critical competence and competitiveness in the global sphere, such as tertiary and technical education.

MDG 3: Focused on promoting gender equality and empowering women.

MDG 4:  Focused on reducing child mortality.

MDG 5: Focused on improving maternal health.

MDG 6: Focused on combating HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other diseases.

MDG 7: Focused on ensuring environmental stability.

MDG 8: Focused on developing Global Partnerships for Development.

The 8 Millenium Development Goals

The 8 Millennium Development Goals

2014 marks the last year for the observance of the Millennium Development Goals.  As the women of the world are converging in New York to state their position on what they consider to be the priorities in mapping the post-2015/post-MDG agenda, at #CSW58, I shall be exploring the progress and challenges that Zimbabwe has faced in achieving the 8 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). I shall also be reflecting on the main outcomes from the discussions at #CSW58.

New Bottles: Old Wine-An analysis of the Constitutional Court Judgement on Election Dates


On Friday 31st May, 2013 the newly established Constitutional Court issued its first judgment, that is the case of Jealousy Mbizvo Mawarire  v Robert Gabriel Mugabe N.O. and Ors CCZ1/13. The judgment concerned an urgent application by Mr. Mawarire, brought on the basis of a claim that the President was constitutionally obliged to set the dates for Zimbabwe’s next general election no later than the day after the 29th June, 2013 when Parliament reaches the end of its constitutionally prescribed five year term. The failure to do so, Mr. Mawarire maintained, was a breach of his constitutional rights and would have the unconstitutional effect of the country being governed without a Parliament.

The case had various bizarre and curious facets even before the judgment was delivered. President Mugabe had repeatedly stated his desire to hold elections as soon as possible after the passage of the new constitution into law on the 22nd May, 2013 and well before October 29th, 2013, the date the MDC formations had contended was the latest possible constitutional date for the poll.

Thus the immediate question which arose was, if this was the President’s desire, why did he not exercise his presidential prerogative to dissolve Parliament and announce the earlier election date? It is clear that Parliament was required to bring the new constitution into being, and hence Parliament could not have been dissolved before the Constitutional Bill became law. However, did this in any way mean that the President could not have proclaimed the dissolution of Parliament at a future date that allowed ample time for Constitutional Bill to be passed?

There were also several other complications related to the proclamation of elections:

  1. The MDC formations and SADC all insisted that various reforms had to take place before elections
  2. Prior to the adoption of the new constitution, it was a constitutional requirement that the MDC-T Prime Minister, Morgan Tsvangirai, had to be consulted on the date of the dissolution of Parliament, if it were to be dissolved by proclamation rather than by automatic dissolution through the passing of time

It would not have been politically expedient for the President to have brought the application before the Constitutional Court himself. However, a, Mr. Mawarire stepped up to the plate and brought the application “against” the President.  Unsurprisingly, the President’s “opposing” paper, rather than disputing the Applicant’s case, as is usual, wholeheartedly agreed with his argument, though did not it seems, having agreed with the Applicant’s interpretation of the law, offer any reasons why he had then failed to comply with it

The issue before the nine member bench of the Supreme Court, sitting as the Constitutional Court, was to determine the chronological parameters mandated by the constitution for the holding of a general election following the dissolution of Parliament. The dissolution of parliament can take place in one of two ways;

  1. Either following a proclamation by the President, or
  2. Through the effluxion of time when the five year term of Parliament ends.

The determination of the issue revolved around the interpretation of subsection 58(1) of the old constitution, as read with subsections 63(4) and 63(7), which are still to apply until the new constitution becomes fully operational.

Section 58(1) provides as follows:

A general election and elections for members of the governing bodies of local authorities shall be held on such day or days within a period not exceeding four months after the issue of a proclamation dissolving Parliament under section 63(7) or, as the case may be, the dissolution of Parliament under section 63(4) as the President may, by proclamation in the Gazette, fix.

The judges of the new Constitutional Court seized with the matter were not fresh judicial appointees.. Chief Justice Chidyausiku wrote the judgment for the majority.. In the judgment  he construed section 58(1) so that its meaning became ambiguous. This was done by violating some very basic rules of grammar in the following way.

He inserted colons into the section (where none existed in the original) ostensibly to highlight what he claimed was the ambiguous nature of the provision, but in factto creating an ambiguity that did not exist before.

The insertion of punctuation can dramatically change the meaning of a sentence, for example:

‘While the mother was cooking the baby her brother and the dog were sleeping.’

When punctuated, the sentence is easier to read.

‘While the mother was cooking, the baby, her brother and the dog were sleeping.’

But leave out a comma and the text becomes more sinister

‘While the mother was cooking the baby, her brother and the dog were sleeping.’

By inserting a colon after “on” in section 58(1), Chief Justice Chidyausiku altered the meaning of the provision to read:

          58(1) A general election and elections for members of the governing bodies of local authorities shall be held on:

i)                    such day or days within a period not exceeding four months after the issue of a proclamation dissolving Parliament under section 63(7) or,

ii)                  as the case may be, the dissolution of Parliament under section 63(4) as the President may, by proclamation in the Gazette, fix.

 By the insertion of the colons, Justice Chiyausiku creates a new meaning for section 58(1), which gives the Applicant the desired result. That meaning is that the President must have set the election date within a period of four months before the dissolution of Parliament and that an election should be held upon the dissolution of Parliament.

This is not what the law (without the colons) says. The law says an election shall be held within a period of four months AFTER the President issues the proclamation Parliament dissolving parliament or within a period of four months AFTER Parliament dissolves automatically at the end of its five year term. That five year term  ends on 29 June and the law allows the President to continue in office, in this event, after Parliament has been dissolved, but with the requirement that he to set an election date within four months from the time of such dissolution..

Further, the Chief Justice in coming to his conclusion made the assertion that reading the ‘after’ to mean precisely that i.e. ‘after’ would create a ‘mind boggling’ situation in which the country existed without Parliament. This is not a sound argument. The Chief Justice knows very well that:

 

  1. In the past the date for an election has always been announced AFTER, and not BEFORE, dissolution of Parliament which has meant that the President previously has continued to be in office without a ParliamentThe Constitution, in fact, specifically allows for Parliament to be ‘prorogued’  (delayed) for periods of as much as 180 days,[1] and the power to prorogue Parliament for such an extended period  lies with the President under the current constitution.
  2. The executive continued to function without legislative oversight for five months between the dissolution of Parliament for the March 2008 election and the start of the seventh Parliament in 2008 without anyone’s mind being boggled or any ruling of absurdity being made.

Even if this judgment is correct, the Chief Justice did not avert to some very important facts that may make it impossible for the President to comply with the 31 July deadline:

  1. Provisions of the new constitution, which are effective from the date of publication, stipulate that there must be at least 44 days between the proclamation of the election dates and the Election Day itself.
  2. The new constitution also provides that the Electoral Act cannot be changed once the election dates have been announced.
  3. The Electoral Act must be amended to bring it into line with the new constitution, especially in regard to the introduction of a system of proportional representation.
  4. The President cannot proclaim the election dates until the amendments to the Electoral Act have been finalised.
  5. There is no guarantee that the amendments to the Electoral Act will be agreed upon  and finalised at least 44 days before the 31st July, 2013. This means that the President may then either have to violate the constitutional requirement that 44 days elapse between the electoral proclamation and the election itself, or fail to meet the 31st July, 2013 deadline.

 


[1] Section 62(2) of the Constitution.

This article was adopted from an opinion piece written by Derek Matyszak. To read more please folow this link on the RAU Website