Zimbabwe’s Macho Men: Sexualised Violence against Men by Men

Sexual violence is seldom about the sexual act itself but about power and humiliation regardless of whether it is performed against a woman or a man. It is acknowledged, but not well documented, that men suffer from sexual violence perpetrated by other men during conflict, be in armed conflict or low level political conflict as the Zimbabwe context.

Men and boys are reluctant to report sexual violence because of the stigma associated with it that makes it very difficult to accurately assess its scope, but, despite these challenges, a small study was undertaken to establish whether there are cases of politically motivated sexual violence in Zimbabwe, particularly in the last 12 years.  This report is based on the results of this study, which was done through the administration of a questionnaire prepared by RAU.

The study revealed interesting findings some of which are detailed below:

·         Men were uncomfortable and unwilling to speak about their own experiences with sexual violence, but more open when asked whether their wives were victims and the consequences of this;

·          Only one man admitted to being a perpetrator of sexual violence; he stated that he held down a victim while others raped her;

·         Almost all stated that women are affected differently by violence because of the physical differences of the sexes; men are much stronger than women and can withstand the violence;

·         They stated that sodomy, forced to have sexual intercourse either with a woman or another man, forced to gang rape women, having their genitalia touched, forced to strip in public and any indecent sexual act without consent were all forms of sexual violence than men can suffer;

·         The violence occurred either at a base or at home in front of other people.


·         Further research needs to be done on politically motivated sexual violence focusing on both male and female victims, looking at the prevalence and the effects.

·         Protection mechanisms need to be set up for victims of sexual violence to enable them to receive treatment and counseling in safe spaces.

For the full report please go to our website: www.researchandadvocacyunit.org

Prioritising education on the political agenda

The  “shocking pass rates” or should we say failure rates in the 2012 Ordinary level results are just a symptom of deep-rooted problems that have been developing in Zimbabwe’s education sector over the years. Reforming the education sector should be a top priority for any government or party that seriously wants to take charge of the echelons of power. This can be done by placing education at the core of their campaign strategy. The RAU reports (“Every School has a Story to Tell: A Study into Teachers’ Experiences with Elections in Zimbabwe” and “Political violence and intimidation against Teachers in Zimbabwe” available on the RAU website documented the crisis from the perspective of politically motivated attacks on teachers and the impact this violence has had on not only the teachers, but also on the economy, especially the increase in unemployment amongst the youths. RAU also looked at the impact of exposure to violence on school children when teachers were attacked in front of pupils.

In its recommendations RAU spear-headed a campaign to have schools declared as zones of peace z and for all political activities taking place at schools to be banned. The rationale behind this is that in times of major political events in Zimbabwe such as elections, considerable amount of learning time is lost as politicians seize schools and school facilities to coordinate their campaign meetings. At the height of violence in 2008, 94% of all schools in rural areas were shut down as teachers fled violence and therefore there was no point in parents sending their children to school. In most cases, teachers and pupils were forced to attend rallies and these were done during school hours. To demonstrate that these assertions are not just historical reporting, it is alleged that as we speak some schools in Manicaland and Mashonaland East have been forced to give offices to militias or ‘war veterans so that they can coordinate their activities ahead of elections. This alone constitutes an attack on education and only a political directive can rectify that. The rationale of peace zones is derived from war situations where there is an agreement not to physically attack institutions of learning as well as medical facilities. Zimbabwe is not in a war situation, but the political situation during elections has in the past resembled ‘war’, where violence has been used as a political tool. By declaring schools as zones of peace, this allows children to continue attending school without hindrance; and protects teachers from attacks from political elements. Anything that has a negative bearing on education such as attacks on teachers is considered an attack on education. Any acts that affect the smooth running of schools/education should become punishable offences. In that light, the adoption of the new Constitution which explicitly guarantees education as a right compels government to legislate supporting laws that enable the right to be enjoyed by every child in Zimbabwe.

It is important for the Ministry of Education to carry out empirical studies on the impact of conflict on the education sector and measures to address these. Special attention should be given to solving the problems created for children due to the conflict, like mental stress, exposure to violence and displacement, by incorporating different programs of reconciliation, mutual goodwill and peace in education programs.  The link between education, peace and development is evident from the period when Zimbabwe emerged from colonial government to majority rule. At that time, education played a pivotal role in building a human capital base that is still revered throughout the world. The same period was also marked by peace and development.

While there are many factors that have contributed to the crisis in education including the decrease in donor support for education, violence is a single factor that does not require funding to change the overall outlook. It requires political will, a community shared vision that education is at the centre of communities moving from abject poverty to emancipation and that every child must be protected and supported through provision of safe schools that allow the mind to positively grow.

By declaring schools as zones of peace, the state will be taking bold steps towards redressing issues to do with community security and violence in the communities, especially violence targeting women and young girls. The campaign will ensure that the future of Zimbabwe; the youths, are not engaged in violence largely caused by idle minds as a result of a failing education system.

What is Election Violence?

This seems a rather stupid question to ask, and especially in Zimbabwe where we talk about this endlessly. However, this is not a trivial question, and we remember 2008 and 2002 more clearly than we do 2005. Simply put, is the killing, beating, and raping of citizens worse from the point of elections than the threatening, terrifying, and starving of the them? It all depends on the purpose and the consequence.


If the consequence is to change the result of the vote and hence who governs, then surely both are equivalent as regards the final result: that those who use either strategy subvert the real purpose of elections? Which is what? Surely that the citizens can ensure, freely, that those that govern have the mandate to govern?


So, we need to be very clear, when we talk about elections, and we talk about election violence, that we are clear about what this is. So, when killing, beating, and raping do not happen, but threatening, terrifying, and starving does, we are certain that election violence still happened. We need no repeats of 2008 and 2002, or  even 2005!


So what do we mean when we talk about election violence? Consider this definition:


…Acts or threats of coercion, intimidation, or physical harm perpetrated to affect an

electoral process or that arises in the context of electoral competition. When

perpetrated to affect an electoral process, violence may be employed to influence the process of elections – such as efforts to delay, disrupt, or derail a poll – and to influence the outcomes: the determining of winners in competitive races for political office or to secure approval or disapproval of referendum questions.


As Timothy Sisk points out above this is considerably broader than the presence of physical violence: it is the range of activities aimed at subverting the will of ordinary citizens to freely exercise their choice[1].


Electoral violence is a sub-type of political violence in which actors employ coercion in an

instrumental way to advance their interests or achieve specific political ends. Similarly,

societies prone to experiencing election-related violence are normally vulnerable to

broader kinds of political violence; Kosovo, India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Kenya, or

Colombia are examples of instances in which electoral violence is embedded in a

broader, often ongoing context of deep-rooted social conflict.


Electoral violence includes acts, such as assassination of opponents or spontaneous

fisticuffs between rival groups of supporters and threats, coercion, and intimidation of

opponents, voters, or election officials. Threat and intimidation is a form of coercion

that is just as powerful as acts of violence can be. Indeed, one purpose of acts of

terrorism such as tossing a grenade into a crowd of rival supporters is an act

diabolically designed to induce fear and to intimidate (e.g., to suppress mobilization or

voting by that group).


Violent acts can be targeted against people or things, such as the targeting of

communities or candidates or the deliberate destruction of campaign materials, vehicles,

offices, or ballot boxes.


Electoral violence is more than just physical violence: it is the purpose behind violence, and the oscillation between physical violence and psychological violence that enable us to understand this purpose in Zimbabwe. The results of the elections in 2005 can only be understood in the context of the violence of 2002 and 2008. That 2005 was less violent than the two previous elections is not really the point, and it would be useful here if the South African Government would stop contesting the release of the Khampepe/Moseneke report: we could then see the nexus between 2000/2002 and 2005.


And, just maybe, SADC would own up to the Principles that it promulgated so piously in 2005, and start to insist that the GPA required constitutional change and reform, then elections, rather than accepting the weak compromise offered by the GNU of constitutional change, then elections and reform. Then maybe the SADC Treaty would be a real, substantive document as opposed to a loose-leaf folder from which pages are removed whenever they are inconvenient! And they are especially inconvenient when elections (and sometimes courts and court decisions) leave the members in potential conflict with each other over who has the right to rule.

[1] Sisk, T. D, Elections in Fragile States: Between Voice and Violence. Paper Prepared for The International Studies Association Annual Meeting. San Francisco, California. March 24-28, 2008.

Politically motivated violence against women in Zimbabwe

With the breaking of the news about the AidsFree World submission of a dossier on politically motivated rape to the National Prosecuting Authority in South Africa, it is worth remembering that political violence against women is an unfortunate feature of the electoral landscape in Zimbabwe. It is also worth remembering that this is not merely a matter for history. Simultaneous to the reporting to the AidsFree World action was a report of the arson attack on the Maisiri home in Headlands (and the murder of 12 year old Christpower Maisiri), and the revelation that his mother too had been victim of political rape by Lovemore Manenji in 2008.

RAU, and its various partners, have been raising the spectre of politically motivated violence against women even prior to the 2008 elections, and thus it was gratifying to see the issue being given a national profile last year through the Women and Peace Conference, organized by Musasa, the Royal Netherlands Embassy, HIVOS, and UN Women. There were strong commitments by Government Ministers, UN agencies, international NGOs, and local women’s organisations to stop political violence, sexual violence, and rape of women.

The issue was raised again in 2013 on Valentine’s Day under the umbrella of the One Billion Rising initiative, where women from all walks of life came together at the National Gallery to dance their commitment to ending violence against women.

RAU therefore wishes to draw your attention to the research of several years on the issue of political motivated violence and intimidation of women. Below are a selection of reports that can be obtained by following the links, but other reports can be found on the RAU website:


RAU (2010), Women, Politics and the Zimbabwe Crisis, Report produced by Idasa (An African Democracy Institute), the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ), the Research and Advocacy Unit (RAU), and the Womens’ Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCoZ). May 2010. HARARE: RESEARCH & ADVOCACY UNIT.


RAU (2010), Preying on the “Weaker” Sex: Political Violence against Women in Zimbabwe. Report produced by IDASA (An African Democracy Institute), the International Center for Transitional Justice [ICTJ] and the Research and Advocacy Unit [RAU].  November 2010. HARARE: RESEARCH & ADVOCACY UNIT.


RAU (2010), “When the going gets tough the man gets going!” Zimbabwean Women’s views on Politics, Governance, Political Violence, and Transitional Justice. Report produced by the Research and Advocacy Unit [RAU], Idasa [Institute for Democracy in Africa], and the International Center for Transitional Justice [ICTJ]. November 2010. HARARE: RESEARCH & ADVOCACY UNIT.


 RAU (2010), No Hiding Place. Politically Motivated Rape of Women in Zimbabwe. Report prepared by the Research and Advocacy Unit (RAU) and the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR). December 2010. HARARE: RESEARCH & ADVOCACY UNIT.


RAU (2011), Women and Law Enforcement in Zimbabwe. Report produced by IDASA (An African Democracy Institute), and the Research and Advocacy Unit (RAU). March 2011, HARARE:RESEARCH & ADVOCACY UNIT.




RAU (2011), Politically Motivated Rape in Zimbabwe. Report produced for the Women’s Programme of the Research and Advocacy Unit. May 2011. HARARE:RESEARCH & ADVOCACY UNIT.


RAU (2011), Women and Political Violence: An Update. July 2011. HARARE: RESEARCH & ADVOCACY UNIT.


Elections yet again

There is an inevitable sense of trepidation when elections start to loom in Zimbabwe, especially since 2000. All too often it feels that we merely repeat the same cycle without any evidence of learning from the mistakes of the past. It is for this reason that it is very important to carefully examine the past, and, to this end, RAU would like to emphasize some of its own findings from past elections, particularly 2008.

2008 is important because there were two elections in very quick succession. The first, in March 2008, was very peaceful and well-administered up to the point of the count, when things went very wrong. The second was hardly peaceful and probably the most violent election ever in Zimbabwe, though many have forgotten just how violent the 2002 Presidential election was.

Below are links to a selection or reports that RAU feels are useful guides to thinking about 2013. Other reports can be found on the RAU website which is: www.researchandadvocacyunit.org

An edited selection of the more important reports was produced by Derek Matyszak for the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, and this can be found by following the link immediately below:

Matyszak, D.A (2010), Law, Politics, and Zimbabwe’s ‘Unity’ Government, KONRAD ADENAUER STIFTUNG in association with the Research and Advocacy Unit [RAU].


In addition to this compendium are a number of other useful reports, some talking about the violence, others dealing with the electoral irregularities, and others dealing with the setting up the GPA:

Kwinjeh. G (2008), Staring a gift horse in the mouth. Death Spiral in Zimbabwe: Mediation, Violence and the GNU. 18 June 2008.


Pigou, P (2008), Defining Violation: Political Violence or Crimes Against Humanity. June 2008. SITO: IDASA.


Matyszak, D. (2008), How to lose an election and stay in power. June 2008. RESEARCH & ADVOCACY UNIT.


Matyszak. D. (2008), Opinion on the legality of the presidential election which took place in Zimbabwe on June 27th 2009, and the legitimacy of any incumbent assuming office on the basis of the result of such an election. SITO: IDASA.


RAU (2009), Hear no Evil, See no evil, Speak no evil: A critique of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission report on the 2008 General Elections. Report produced by Derek Matyszak (Senior Researcher). July 2009. HARARE: RESEARCH & ADVOCACY UNIT.


RAU (2009), 2013 Vision – Seeing Double and the Dead. A preliminary Audit of Zimbabwe’s Voters’ Roll. Derek Matyszak. September 2009. HARARE: RESEARCH & ADVOCACY UNIT.



Displacements: Old Wine in New Bottles

Over the decades, forced displacement has been frequently used in Zimbabwe as a political weapon. During the Liberation War, hundreds of thousands of rural Zimbabweans were forced from their homes and into “keeps”, so-called “protected villages”, in order to prevent their support for the freedom fighters. It is a tactic that has been repeatedly used subsequently since 2000, with Operation Murambatsvina the most notorious of the many examples.

However, it is not so evident to many that there has massive displacement, probably exceeding that of Operation Murambatsvina [OM], under the land reform process begun in 2000. This displacement has not been as overtly dramatic as OM, but has permanently displaced many more than under OM.

It is certainly the case that the displacement of the white commercial farmers has received huge media coverage whilst that of the black commercial farmworkers has not received anything like the same attention.

RAU has been examining the effects of displacement over the past 5 years, and issued a number of reports on this, as well as a documentary that has received critical appreciation. The report and the film on the effects of displacement on the commercial farm workers can be found by following the links below:

GAPWUZ (2009), If something wrong…The invisible suffering of commercial farm workers and their families due to “land reform”. Report prepared by the Research & Advocacy Unit and the Justice for Agriculture Trust. November 2009. HARARE: GENERAL AGRICULTURAL AND PLANTATION WORKERS UNION OF ZIMBABWE.




RAU (2009), “House of Justice”. 26 minute documentary on the SADC Tribunal and current farm invasions in contempt of the ruling. HARARE: RESEARCH & ADVOCACY UNIT.



JAG/GAPWUZ (2007), DESTRUCTION OF ZIMBABWE’S BACKBONE INDUSTRY IN PURSUIT OF POLITICAL POWER. A qualitative report on events in Zimbabwe’s commercial farming sector since the year 2000. Report prepared by the Justice for Agriculture Trust [JAG] & the General Agricultural and Plantation Workers Union of Zimbabwe [GAPWUZ]. April 2008. HARARE: JUSTICE FOR AGRICULTURE TRUST.




Creating Zones of Peace

In all the hullabaloo over the O-Level results, and the very frank discussion at SAPES over what needs to be done, it should be pointed out that one factor disadvantaging our school children, both secondary and primary, is their exposure to political violence. Education requires a safe and peaceful environment if children are to make the most of any system of learning.
RAU and PTUZ have been documenting the effects of the political violence and intimidation of recent years on teachers in particular, but also pointing out the likely consequences to the children. With the pending referendum and probable elections looming, these reports take on greater salience than perhaps people are aware.
The reports can be found by following the links below:

Pswarayi, L, & Reeler, A.P (2102), ‘Fragility’ and education in Zimbabwe: Assessing the impact of violence on education. December 2012, HARARE: RESEARCH & ADVOCACY UNIT;

PTUZ (2012), Every School has a Story. A Preliminary Report on Teachers Experiences of Elections in Zimbabwe. Report produced by PTUZ and RAU. February 2012. HARARE: PROGRESSIVE TEACHERS UNION OF ZIMBABWE and RESEARCH & ADVOCACY UNIT;

PTUZ (2012), Political Violence and Intimidation of Zimbabwean Teachers. May 2012. Report prepared for the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe [PTUZ] by the Research and Advocacy Unit [RAU]. HARARE: PROGRESSIVE TEACHERS UNION OF ZIMBABWE;


The Arrogance of Power

“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.”

Lord Acton’s words are as true today as they were in 1887. When politicians become corrupted by power, they become arrogant and tend to think that they own the people. They completely forget that their mandate is to serve the people. Instead, they demand to be called titles like “chef” and in most cases join the looting spree.

The very basis of the Inclusive Government in Zimbabwe was that it would give the warring parties, ZANU PF and the MDC formations the opportunity to institute political and legislative reforms that would create an environment conducive for free, fair and credible elections. The reforms included crafting a new charter for the country, bringing transparency, accountability and non-partisanship to the security sector, and ensuring the existence of a free media amongst others. The emphasis was on reforms before anything else and this was clear even from the SADC perspective. The ZANU PF congress resolution in 2011 pushed for early elections and the move was resisted by all parties. This was consistent with the message – REFORMS FIRST.

What happened to the reform agenda?

A constitution does not guarantee free and fair elections; these are guaranteed by the institutions of the state, which are currently exceedingly compromised by their political partisanship. The real challenge for the Inclusive Government, and something being continually demanded by SADC, is to create institutions that are manned by competent professional people that discharge their mandate without fear or favour.

We need traditional leaders who are non-partisan and who abide by the Traditional Leaders’ Act. We need a police force that is not manned by people who publicly attend political party rallies and declare their allegiance, thus not obeying the Police Act. There is a need to address the structures of violence in the communities where women were attacked and raped, where children had to witness violence targeted at their teachers, and where schools were threatened with closure. This machinery is still intact and this is a priority for reform. It is what people expect of its leaders and anything short of addressing these problems, and claiming that they are solved by a constitution that no-one has had time to examine, is misleading. Leaders must remember that they are in power due to the will of the populace, which is where real democratic sovereignty lies.

The Lost Decade in Schools.

The Deputy Minister of Education, Lazurus Dokora was quoted as saying, ““We cannot have a situation whereby the country is held at ransom by individuals who spent three years of their lives training to be teachers but later choose to sit at home while waiting to get a place to teach in Harare…” Minister Dokora was responding to a comment on an article which said that qualified secondary school teachers are shunning deployment in rural schools.  What Minister Dokora is forgetting is that threats don’t work to solve problems, especially considering that the teachers’ concerns are mostly genuine. No reasonable person would accept being deployed in rural areas with appalling working conditions. Whilst strides have been made to improve the literacy level in Zimbabwe since independence, there has not been any significant investment in infrastructure in schools, and often, children sit under make-shift classrooms where lessons are conducted . Staff houses in some cases are non-existent. All these factors work against teachers and they are genuine excuses why one would refuse to be deployed in rural areas.  With the 2012 ‘O’ level results showing that of the 172 698candidates who wrote exams, only 31 767attained passes in five subjects or better, translating to only 18.4 percent.

rural schoolkids

But poor conditions are not the only reason why teachers don’t want to work in rural areas.

Collaborative research between RAU and the Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe, on teachers’ experiences with elections since 2000, revealed that teachers were politically targeted for violence, especially in rural communities, because they are influential. They were also accused of masterminding the defeat of ZANU PF’s presidential candidate in the March 2008 election. As a result, many teachers had to flee to ‘safer’ places, which in most cases meant urban schools, and even leaving the country. It is reported that in 2008, about 94% of all rural schools in Zimbabwe closed shop owing to political violence which was also directed at teachers. Since then, it has become difficult to attract qualified personnel to take up posts in areas that are considered political hot-spots. These areas include (without prejudice) Uzumba, Maramba and Pfungwe.

Whilst government, on the one hand needs to seriously invest in infrastructure development in rural schools and address poor working conditions, at the political level, it should acknowledge that political violence has impacted negatively on education. Schools should be declared zones of peace, environments that allow children to learn and develop without being exposed to violence. RAU reports highlight that 25% of the violations reported by teachers taking place in schools happened in the presence of pupils, thereby exposing them directly to violence. In focus group discussions, some teachers reported that militias rounded up teachers from their classrooms and ordered pupils to beat them with sticks.

To expect a qualified teacher to take up a position in such unsafe areas then becomes unreasonable. Under no circumstances would any reasonable person, let alone a qualified teacher, take up a post in such an area, where their safety is in the hands of militias or political party activists. The structure of violence in communities needs to be dismantled to create peace zones. To fast track this, legislation to ban all political activities in schools is a clear option that government needs to pursue. This, and a combination of increasing the number of trained teachers produced in a year and improving the working conditions should see posts being taken up more easily.  Perhaps this will be the way in which we might eradicate the effects of a “lost decade”.

Keep soldiers out of schools

Zimbabwe is a country at peace, yet it resembles a ‘war zone”. This is especially so as the country prepares for the forthcoming elections with dates set to be announced soon. It was clear from the just ended ZANU PF Congress that the tone for elections has been set. This is despite the fact that reforms to enable a free and fair election have not been implemented to the fullest. Previous elections have shown that violence in Zimbabwe is directly linked to the electoral cycle and increases around major political events where political power is contested. Education is not spared from this violence, including personal attacks on teachers, school pupils, parents, infrastructure and school furniture.

A common feature witnessed during previous elections is the presence of soldiers in communities, supposedly just doing their drills. The fact that they are patrolling in communities that have been at the receiving end of violence is a cause for concern. It has an intimidatory effect given the violence of June 2008. The securocrats have not made the situation any better by making political statements threatening not to respect any election outcome that does not deliver the ZANU PF candidate to power. The military has also retained their presence in communities where in some cases bases are set in schools in what have been referred to as “Operation Maguta”.

The setting up of militia bases in schools have been identified by about 7% of respondents of teachers in Zimbabwe during a national survey conducted by the Research and Advocacy Unit in collaboration with the Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe. Military use of schools has been a part of the Zimbabwe history dating back as far as the fight against colonialism. This trend has spilled over in post independent Zimbabwe. However, the difference between the two periods is that whilst militia bases were set up to support the struggle and attack the ‘enemy”, the current experience is that bases are set up to attack the community in which they are set up, therefore terrorising communities.

Some of the uses of schools for military purposes included village operational headquarters, detention and interrogation centers, and various food or grain input distribution schemes such as Operation Maguta.

“The moment a base is set at a school, it is at the expense of the pupils. It exposes pupils to real and potential attacks and other violence. The worst affected is the girl child. It is noted that during conflict the attendance of the girl child especially is affected. The risks include sexual abuse, sexual harassment including rape and these should never be taken lightly.

Military use of education institutions can cause damage to already-fragile education infrastructures and systems. The Zimbabwe Government has not been investing in educational infrastructure and cannot afford to have these bases set up in schools thus hastening the deterioration process. Decent staff housing and school infrastructure is a push factor noted from the study with teachers. In the end, schools in mostly rural areas will not attract qualified personnel.

Some of the educational consequences of military use of schools and other education institutions include the following;

i)  High dropout rates. The girl child is mostly affected

ii) Reduced enrollment

iii) Lower rates of transition to higher education levels,

iv) Closure of schools. In 2008 alone, Unicef noted that 94% of all rural schools were forced closed to owing to teachers who had fled attacks directed at them.

v)  Direct attacks on teachers.

Zimbabwe needs to urgently adopt policies that explicitly ban or restrict political parties from using education facilities. Schools should be zones of peace, places where the child is provided a safe place to learn and develop. Access to safe education should be priority. This is because quality education unlocks  potential, promotes peace and helps young people develop the skills and qualifications they need to build lives for themselves and prosperity for their communities.