#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.

Africa: This is not all we are.


The issues that hinder Africa’s progress are real and prominent. Like grim reapers, poverty, hunger, famine, diseases, civil wars, dictatorships and droughts among other challenges surround Africa.

thepowerofonlyone.blogspot.com

However, these challenges are not the only things that define our continent. Africa has beautiful people.  It is up to us as African people to take responsibility for the continent’s progression. We cannot expect the good in our continent to shine like a bright light when we sit as grim reapers and magnify everything but the good in Africa. The stench of death will not be subdued unless we introduce new lively members to the ‘table.’ It is important to channel our efforts towards addressing these challenges in order for Africa to succeed.

Who then is blind?


I was sitting in a Commuter Omnibus yesterday, lost in thought when the omnibus stopped at a traffic light. I was close to the window so I looked onto the pavement to observe the people in the street. My attention was drawn by a visually impaired man trying to navigate his way around. I could see it wasn’t easy for him; the pavement was marred by uneven surfaces, and visible holes. I was holding on to my seat fearful that he would fall into one of those holes but he went round them with such ease, I marvelled.

My heart was torn when he got to the end of the pavement and he started shouting “tibatsireiwo kupvuura mugwagwa vabaereki” someone please help me cross the road. I wished I could jump out of the Kombi to help him, but I was in public transport. I observed as people continued on their way, some with earphones on, so they couldn’t hear him and others who just couldn’t be bothered to turn back. Then one woman noticed him and turned back to help him, bless her heart.

Having observed this poor man, I finally understood why the white cane was invented. In 1921 James Biggs, a photographer from Bristol who was blinded after an accident and was uncomfortable with the amount of traffic around his home, painted his walking stick white to be more easily visible.[1] The cane, in my view, was invented to ensure that the visually impaired are not dependent on anyone for things they can do every day. Visual impairment is not a death sentence; in fact many people have gone on to achieve greatness despite this disability.

Blind Children

In South Africa, having observed the problem of crossing roads, they invented a beeping sound for all pedestrian lights, so that the visually impaired know when it is time to cross. When the sound goes off, all cars stop until pedestrians have crossed.

In Zimbabwe however, the green light for pedestrians goes on at the same time as the cars going in the opposite direction, meaning that people have to negotiate with cars turning as well. The pavements and roads have so many open holes one could easily fall and break their leg. Those who are blind are therefore dependent on others to move around.

Our society has taken away the autonomy that the white cane gave visually impaired people. We have infringed their human dignity by failing to create a society where all can function. More disturbing is, we have lost the sense of Ubuntu to feel for one other and to strive to make life better so that we can all thrive, we have forgotten that “umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu” we are who we are because of others.  They maybe visually impaired but we have all became blind to humanness.

God help us!

 

Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference – Pastoral Letter – Zimbabweans in the Diaspora


Please follow this link to read the letter: http://mdctsa.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/zimbabwe-catholic-bishops-conference-pastoral-letter-addressed-to-zimbabweans-in-the-diaspora.pdf

In this letter the Bishops are wanting to give recognition and hope to those Zimbabweans living in the diaspora who may feel abandoned by their country, Zimbabwe.

Many of these people are economic migrants and don’t qualify for refugee status in their adopted countries.Most of them left in times of elections when violence rates increased considerably and people thought to support the opposition parties were targeted. Especially in South Africa, many of these people live in dire circumstances and are targeted for xenophobic attacks.

Being a Refugee.


In November 2009, I administered a questionnaire to Zimbabwean refugees living in South Africa. Through this experience I gained insight into the link between forced migration and transitional justice. On my last day, I had an experience that increased my appreciation of the plight of refugees. A woman came to the hotel where I stayed. She had heard about the survey and wanted to tell her story. The hotel would not let her onto their premises so I had to meet her on the street. The sight of her broke my heart. Her clothes were tattered. Her skin was a black-grey colour- a sign that she had not bathed in days. The baby on her back was crying incessantly. “She is hungry,” she explained, “She has not had anything to eat for days.” As she spoke I found myself struggling to hold back my tears.

 

I could not interview her in the hotel. “She will cause discomfort for the other guests,” the hotel manager informed me. The street was not an option either, with the baby incessantly crying and the car horns blaring. She insisted she wanted her story to be heard. We walked together and the sight of a fruit stall I stopped to buy her a few bananas and oranges so she could feed her baby. The child quieted down and the woman began her story.

 

Several young men had come to her home at night in one of the rural towns of Zimbabwe. Her father was perceived to belong to the wrong political party. These men tied up her mother and father and set their hut ablaze, burning them alive. They dragged her into the forest where they raped her, one after the other then left her for dead. She had no idea which one of them was the father of her baby. She had run away from home, walked miles on foot, and begged for passage aboard any vehicle heading for South Africa. She was smuggled across the border because she did not possess valid travel documents. With no money the only thing she could give was her body; more abuse. She had believed she would be safe but in South Africa all she found was more victimisation, hunger, poverty, loneliness and pain; “I had a home. I had family. I am educated, you know. I wanted to be a nurse.”

 

All I could give her were a few bananas and contacts of organisations that might help her. I wish I could have done more. Many other people face the same fate. They had homes, lives, families, hopes and aspirations, all lost through no fault of their own. The African adage “when giants fight it is the grass that suffers” applies as conflicts rage on and citizens suffer, become refugees and are ostracised in the countries to which they flee. Meanwhile, those responsible for their losses remain ensconced in their grandeur, surrounded by thousands of bodyguards to ensure their protection.

Zimbabwean Refugees in South Africa

 

Apart from violent conflict, persecution and imprisonment of political opponents has become one of the leading causes of refugee influxes. Massive abuses of human rights, monopolisation of political and economic power, disrespect for democratic processes such as elections, resistance to popular participation in governance, and poor management of public affairs were key factors that triggered forced displacements in Zimbabwe. In Burma, the suppression of minority tribal groups by a military that wants to impose the supremacy of the majority ethnicity, has led many people to flee the country. Dissenting political voices are persecuted in China, Ethiopia and Iran. Sudan currently has the largest IDP population in Africa owing to targeted attacks on Nubians in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states and on Darfuris. In Somalia and Ethiopia; war and famine have driven many away from their homes, resulting in the great numbers of refugees at Dadaab camp on the Somali/Kenyan border.

 

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reveals that nearly 28 per cent (3.2 million) of the world’s twelve million refugees are in Africa, with nine of the top twenty ‘refugee-producing’ countries being in Africa. A 2009 report from the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) covering 21 African countries estimated that there were 11.6 million IDPs in these countries, representing more than 40 per cent of the world’s total IDPs. Indeed, forced displacement has reached chronic levels. It has been recently reported that in 2011, 48 of the least developed countries provided asylum to a total of 2.3 million refugees. These figures point out how much more the Developed World still needs to do to assist with the plight of refugees.

 

When refugees flee from their homes, they seek security from the threats to their life and liberty. Fleeing however does not guarantee security; it merely exchanges one form of vulnerability for another. In camps they are restricted to isolated, insecure areas. If assimilated into the society they are often thrust into hostile societies with xenophobic tendencies. Women and girls may be subjected to rape, sexual violence, human trafficking and abductions for purposes of forced marriage by male family members, security personnel stationed by the government, and leaders and agency officials delivering aid. Young men and boys are forcibly conscripted into militia forces. Violent clashes with local populations over land and resources are also common, Kenya being an example. More often than not, states are either unable or unwilling to provide refugees with assistance.

 

Attitudes towards refugees must change. The first necessity is to realise that a refugee today was a national of another country yesterday with a home, a job, hopes and aspirations. Second, refugees are victims of circumstances beyond their control. Third, legal regimes that portray refugees as the ‘other’ breed resentment in local populations leading to xenophobic attacks. These legal regimes must be transformed. Fourth, instead of ostracising refugees, host countries and the global community should ostracise the political leaders, rebel movements or any other groups responsible for forcing the refugees to flee their homes. This should include but is not limited to, freezing their assets, denying them travel access, preventing them from accessing arms or weapons used to destroy whole populations and pushing for processes that hold perpetrators of human right violations against refugees accountable for their actions.

South Africa’s First Female Police Commissioner.


On Tuesday, 12 February 2012 President Jacob Zuma of South Africa fired the National Police Commissioner Bheki Cele after a Board of Inquiry found him unfit for office due to allegations of corruption. This dismissal was conducted in terms of the provisions of section 8(6) (b) (v) of the South African Police Service Act N0.68 of 1995. Cele had served barely two and half years after replacing Jackie Selebi who is currently serving a prison sentence for corruption.  According to Zuma, during his tenure Cele had ‘brought much needed passion, energy, expertise and focus that boosted the morale of the police leading to improved productivity and a visible reduction in crime levels.’

Bheki Cele (Previous Police Commissioner)

Here in Zimbabwe we have had the same Police Commissioner, General Augustine Chihuri for over 20 years.  He was appointed in an acting capacity in 1991 and became the substantive Commissioner in 1993. Though he has violated the Police Act many times, including the most glaring violation of declaring himself a ZANU PF supporter, Chihuri has been rewarded with a contract renewal 13 times since 1997.  Whilst his South African counterparts barely lasted two years, we don’t expect the President to fire him seeing that Chihuri has ordered the police force not to accept and investigate reports of political violence where the perpetrators are ZANU PF supporters.  Zimbabweans, as a result, do not regard the police as being impartial and they are feared rather than respected. The Chairperson of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), Andrew Makoni recently accused the government of using the police to control the day to day lives of Zimbabweans not just in the political arena but even in their private lives using unnecessary brutality.  At the same press conference, Zuma announced the appointment of the first South African female Police Commissioner Mangwashi Victoria Phiyega.  Commissioner Phiyega is not only the first woman Police Commissioner in South Africa but on the African continent.   Before her appointment, she was serving as the Chairperson of the Presidential Review Committee on State Owned Enterprises and Deputy Chairperson of the Independent Commission for the Remuneration of Public Office Bearers.

Mangwashi Victoria Phiyega ( New Police Commissioner)

This appointment comes as a surprise as she has no experience in law enforcement and in most countries it is a prerequisite for a Police Commissioner to have been a career police officer.  Maybe after the performance of the last two commissioners this is why Zuma chose someone with a business background.   We shall be watching Commissioner Phiyega as she has a mammoth task ahead of her dealing with crime in South Africa. If we are to go by the indications of the South African Institute of Race Relations based on 2010/2011 statistics, 44 murders, 181 sexual offences, 278 aggravated robberies and 678 burglaries are committed each day in South Africa. Commissioner Cele has to deal with drug lords, hijackings, rape of minors and increasingly vigilante behaviour as a result of poor policing and lack of confidence in the police.

Will she perform better than her two predecessors?  Only time will tell.