My state of Predestined Misery

By Anonymous

What is it that I could have done differently? Should I have worn fuller skirts, should I have not worn the hipsters that were all the rage, should I have gone on a diet so that my ample behind did not show so much, should I have smiled less brightly, should I have avoided conversation with him, should I have been invisible, should my father never have died? Should he have left me a trust fund that would allow me to be self-sufficient and never lack? Should I never have gone to live with them in the first place? So many questions and no answer as to why he sexually molested me.

I remember standing outside of myself and wondering how I should respond to his sexual advances, his clammy hands clawing me, the lewd sexual innuendos directed at me, the leery looks cast above my aunt’s head as we sat at the dinner table…. He was after all my guardian following my father’s death. I wondered if he felt, and whether or not he was actually entitled to the fringe benefits accruing to him by mere fact of his having sent me to school, having provided me with a roof over my head and food in my stomach.

I had options: I could play along just so I could be out of harm’s way and not ruffle feathers unnecessarily. I could report him to my aunt whereupon I would put an end to his predation of me even though it meant destroying their marriage and alienating me from the people who provided a roof over my head. I could report him to the police and risk alienating myself from the bigger family by taking matters into my own hands; the matter’s resolution which, by cultural right belonged to vanababa vemhuri yangu (who by this time knew about this predation but had chosen to let the matter rest- it was more important that I finish my school with a roof over my head and meanwhile I needed to do whatever It took to protect myself from this man in his house).

My aunt was willing to forgive him this one transgression among innumerable indiscretions he committed against her but she was unwilling to disbelieve him when he told her I lied about his molestation of me even though it was not the first time he had sexually molested someone, having molested a maid once before. Doing so would shatter the perfectly embroidered lie of their marriage and depreciate her standing among her church peers. Even though she had suffered sexual abuse at a young age and I felt she should have known better about the trauma which I had gone through,   her condemnation of me only made things worse.

I found myself being judged along the lines of the perpetuated purity myth that places the emphasis on women having to remain chaste; conflating abstinence with responsibility and the construction of a good girl paradigm. My case was judged too, along the lines of the myth of male weakness which suggests that all men are cavemen; brutish and hyper-sexual, that their civility is a mist which can evaporate at any time. They suggested that men, driven by the irresistible forces of the Y chromosome and testosterone, are to be applauded for even the most half-hearted efforts at self-restraint. For some reason their ‘inherent’ vulnerability to temptation and their concomitant single-mindedness, suggested that, after all had been said and done, it was my job to protect him from himself.

I remember all too vividly the shame I felt when I shouldn’t have felt shame. The horrible guilt I felt when I should not have felt guilty. Feeling like I owed it to the both of them to keep them together, that I owed it to my family to forget my own pain because it was more important to recognise the collective good that would be the result of my shutting up. I was socialised to think in terms of the collective, never mind the individual harm caused, but it grated with me that the very system ostensibly designed to protect me, patriarchy, was working to stifle the very life out of me.

When sexual abuse happens to women I will them with everything that is in me to fight using the law at their disposal but I am aware that the same law was available to me then as it is now but I have not used it to bring the perpetrator to book. So many factors inform my decision, least of which is that I will let sleeping dogs lie, reliving the trauma is not something I particularly relish doing. I imagine that there are plenty of women like myself who have been faced with the same dilemma and have not done as justice would have them do because there are so many other factors to consider other than merely bringing the perpetrators of their violence to book.

My notions of what women need to be secure are informed by such things as I have first-hand knowledge. I envision a world where women do not have to apologise for being women as I had to and still continue to do. I hope that someday, the family, so highly esteemed in our social structures, will protect women and young girls and stop apologising for men where they have wronged women. I hope that someday women shall rise and cease to live in a state of predestined misery.

Masculinities under economic strain: Too macho or just fake?

By Daniel Mususa

The mini skirt phenomenon has been a hot potato in public debate for some time now. Lately, events like the “Mini-skirt march” held in Harare by concerned women, has brought this emotionally charged dispute to the fore of public discourse, drawing contrasting reactions along the way. Women have for some time been calling for society to respect their right to wear what they want while society and its self-appointed custodians of morality have castigated this, labelling the proponents of these views with all sorts of names including “prostitutes” “uncultured” “of loose morals” and “HIV-carriers.” Whether clothing alone can indicate a person’s “unculturedness” and “HIV carrying capacity” cannot be adequately explored in this discussion. What matters is that society shapes our response to other people’s behaviour. As men, society teaches us to accept, and justify our beliefs even if they are prejudicial to others. I am made to see prejudice only in my fellow men’s individual actions, not in invisible systems that confer male dominance over women as groups.

Much of the resentment and disdain for the mini-skirts and the abuse of women wearing them is because people have problems in their private lives. Women wearing mini-skirts is nothing more than an easy outlet for people’s frustration with their own lives. Society has taught me, as a man to be fake about the goings on in my life; to hide my fears, to use any excuse I can find to blame someone for doing something-anything. This is the source of the male problems: society wants us to be macho-strong, aggressive, unemotional. Society is not willing to adapt its expectations of how men should behave, society says you must not cry, you must have money, to show your woman that you are in control (even if you have no whiff of a clue of what is going on) then so be it. When a relative passes on, as a man you cannot wail and throw yourself to the ground in anguish- you must be strong, hold it in and watch while your female folk cry-it is their duty to cry, to ask God why he has taken one of us.

I grew up being told that “you are the father of the house” “your sisters must kneel when giving you water to drink/wash hands.” Resultantly, I have a sense of entitlement that women should do what I want and if they don’t, they must be punished for it. This is far from who I am. When I hear of a woman (some woman somewhere) who has been raped, murdered or publicly undressed because of whatever flimsy reason, I want to cry, my heart cries inside me. I do not want to celebrate; I do not blame her for wearing a short and ‘provocative’ mini-skirt. I want to strangle the culprit, to feel his last breath leaving his nostrils but I cannot. Why? Society has taught me to be macho in fact to be too macho and fake. It has instructed me since infancy, that when a woman is raped it is because she has done something to induce the rape. Society has taught me to be a “man,” to be ‘strong’ and not show my emotions but focus on so called important issues. It has taught me to be outraged by women who ‘loiter’ in the CBD at night, that there is no error in men chasing after these ‘loiterers’ and transacting sex with money. Society has wired me into NOT seeing the logic, strategic and practical needs that make women call for the end of gender based violence. It has successfully installed a ‘pro-culture’ software in me which instructs me to detect, detest, mock and question the sanity of the husband who lets his wife go out to march, to engage the powers that be in demanding adherence to legislation which promotes the equal treatment of women and punishes perpetrators of violence against women and girls.

I am not asked by society to say who I think I am, rather I am instructed to adhere to how society defines me and how I must behave as a man. When I grow up and become a man, society has these things that I should live up to. I have no options because if I don’t I will be given names, nasty and belittling names. I cannot ask myself if I want to strip someone’s wife, daughter, sister, mother or aunt because she is wearing a mini-skirt? Am I provoked by the mini skirt? I am dazed by her beauty more than provoked by what you told me is her ‘nakedness.’ Do I want to wolf-whistle at her because she is walking alone? Do I want to join the bandwagon of dagga-smoking, bronco-drinking and sweat-filled hwindis and airtime vendors in howling insults at her because she does not care about what you have to say about how she looks? You have taught me to be too macho as to hide my own fears, insecurities, uncertainties and project them everywhere else besides myself. I find myself a victim of stereotyping, boxed into behavior that does not resonate with my character and personal dispositions. I am and do what you want me to. I am skilled at hiding myself, I was macho but now I am too much, I am just too macho and fake and you know who taught me? You.

Have mini-skirt wearing women increased in number? Have women reduced the length of their skirts since those nostalgically remembered days when life was still life, whichever period that was, if it existed. I think not, economic challenges have deepened. Men’s problems have increased. Their egos are battered and so they take it out on those weaker than them, expressed through violence including women in miniskirts. The length of the mini-skirt has not changed!

She must cover up?! : Reflections on the #MiniSkirtMarch

By Rumbidzai Dube

On Saturday 4 October 2014, Zimbabwean women, led by Katswe Sistahood, launched the #MiniSkirtMarch- a protest against men who publicly harass women for their dressing, especially at commuter omnibus ranks. The messaging of the #MiniSkirtMarch was about women refusing to have the way they dress dictated to us or to be used as an excuse for abuse. It was about rights and choice and how these should be respected. The #MiniSkirtMarch was about confronting our society’s double standards about women’s bodily integrity and autonomy. It aimed to send a strong message that there are no tolerable excuses for perpetrating violence against women in any form. It was not about all Zimbabwean women wanting to wear miniskirts because some, like me, have different preferences.

It is not our culture?

The excuse often given to justify why women should not wear what they want is that certain dressing is not part of our culture. Which culture? As far back as history tells us through art, stone carvings and folktale; our cultural dress has never been about covering up. Mhapapa neshashiko (the skin hides covering women’s backs and fronts) were very short. They covered the ‘bare essentials.’ Women’s breasts were not sacred, they were left hanging open. Our society borrowed the concept of wearing clothes from the Victorian British culture through colonisation. Our crisis is that we borrowed a concept in development and so as British society has transformed its values including shaking off patriarchal notions that dictate women’s choices, we have remained stuck in the past holding on to a half-borrowed concept? We choose to dictate the length of a woman’s clothing. Until a few years ago, some men on our streets beat up women for wearing trousers. Some men in their homes today forbid their wives from wearing trousers or short clothes? Why do we find the exposure of a woman’s legs offensive today when our real true culture did not find the exposure of her legs, stomach and breasts so? Why do we find pride in the terrible Colonial Victorian teaching that says it is shameful for the beauty of a woman’s body to be exposed the way she feels comfortable? For a nation that preaches sovereignty, we do embrace our mental colonisation quite comfortably when it allows the oppression of women.

This cartoon, which is part of the Kenyan #MyDressMyChoice campaign, whose message resonates with our #MiniSkirtMarch captures this point.


Kenyan Cartoon part of the #MyDressMyChoice Campaign

It’s not about dressing…

Abuse is about power, access and control and not about dressing.

Covering the whole body except for the eyes will not protect women from abuse. I personally witnessed this on the streets of Sudan and Egypt where all women, Arab, Black and White were sexually harassed.  The men did it because they could, with no consequence. Society was permissive of their abuse and so they whispered lustful words to us and groped us on the subways; even those in Burqas, where the only body parts visible were the eyes. The abuse was so bad in Egypt, that the Egyptian government created “women only” sections on the subways. It is hence not only offensive, but downright ridiculous to suggest that wearing clothes that are “offensive” to some men’s senses justifies harassment. As a friend said to me; “Is it not ironic then that these men find wearing a mini-skirt more indecent than attacking the woman for wearing the skirt.” They will strip her, drag her across town, cheer and jeer in the name of morality; and then call themselves human? Does she look ‘more decent’ stripped naked?

Abuse of women knows no class. When men dictate what women wear, they are asserting their property rights over women. Men feel that it is their right to determine what women wear; I am sorry maybe that worked when our laws still treated us as perpetual minors but the times have changed. The Legal Age of Majority Act tells me I am an adult, with full rights as citizen to make choices about my life including how I choose to dress.

But back to the point on power, it must feel good doesn’t it; for a powerless man, without a dollar in his pocket to dress down a beautiful, intelligent and ambitious girl. In that fleeting moment when he strips her naked, he must feel that he has power. Humiliating her makes him feel good and invincible. He could have done it to the similarly dressed girl in her Mercedes Benz, but because he has no access to her she remains safe. Another man however, in that other girl’s circles, will, with access, do to her what the girl on the street is subjected to, if not worse. Society’s reaction in both instances is to question the girls’ dressing; they provoked the reactions, right?

No, wrong! A man will not suddenly attack a woman for wearing a miniskirt! That vile character is in him. Men who attack women for their dressing use dressing as an excuse for expressing their debauchery. As a society we are helping them to get away with murder when we promote the idea that women are prey and must hide themselves from would-be hunters. We make excuses for criminals and criminalise victims, fooling ourselves to think they invited their own abuse. We are wrong! If rape was a crime of lust, then only mature women would get raped. How come then children, who have not matured enough to be sexually attractive are raped by their own fathers!

Our society, men and women alike, thrives on excusing bad behaviour and using deeply hurtful words for individuals who do not fit into broad social categories. The same applies with women’s dressing. To be considered respectable, women must wear a certain type of clothing. Wearing clothes deemed too short, too revealing, or too tight and offensive to some members of society’s sensibilities is a reason for labelling. ‘Ipfambi-hure’-she is a prostitute they say. Haana hunhu-she is of loose morals. Idioms such as “Chigamhira mudenga bra rehure” are used to describe women who wear push-up bras to expose their cleavage. The paradox here is that cultural dynamism is promoted through language that disrespects women yet women’s dressing choices and preferences must not be part of societal transformation. The biggest irony is that the Generals of the Moral Police, who frown upon women, including ‘powerful women who wear miniskirts in the company of younger men’may themselves wear ground sweeping skirts but lack that one element that makes us human-separate from others animals; the ability to think and reason, to realise that my choices are mine-you are free to make yours differently. And so we are sociliased into conformance, failing to say and do what we really think and want; what famous Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie calls “turning pretense into an art form.”

As Zimbabwe commemorates the 16 days of activism against gender based violence, the key message is “From Peace in the Home to Peace in our communities: ‘Promoting safe spaces for women and girls.’ Our current reality is that women are not safe, in their homes and on the streets. We must increase our efforts to create public spaces free of violence, including verbal violence, and sexual harassment. Creating those safe spaces is about addressing these stereotypes which marginalise women. Yes we are diverse in our beliefs and strong opinions and choices but we must express these opinions respectfully, with civility and courtesy and stripping women naked because we do not like their dress choices is disrespectful and uncivilised.

Day 1: On boys and toys

By Tony Reeler


Global action against militarism has been the theme of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence for the past three years, and what do we have to show for this. In one of the more horrible stories in 2014 has been the abduction of young girls by Boko Haram and now apparently sold into what can only be termed sexual slavery. Whilst this is obviously not the only serious gender violence that has taken place since 2013, it illustrates so clearly why this campaign must continue, and why the theme must remain a focus upon militarism.

Women and young girls are always at the greatest risk when the worst aspect of militarism rears its ugly head: war in all its forms is the time when all women live in fear. For, as the Boko Haram example demonstrates, as did the conflict in the former Sarajevo, women and young girls provide both the easiest target through which to undermine one’s enemy, but they are also prey to all the serendipitous violence that accompanies men free to operate outside the law. This is no new phenomenon, and has been going on for centuries. In the last century, tens of thousands of women were forced into concubinage by the Japanese army, let alone the many thousands that were raped in Nanking. The Russian army in its final push across Eastern Prussia to Berlin in 1944-1945 committed rape on a genocidal scale: Niall Ferguson points out that the Red Army may have raped over 2 million German women.

It seems impossible to hope that violence against women and young girls in times of civil war or national wars can ever be stopped, or even that this can be stopped in times of lesser political violence as has been witnessed in Zimbabwe in the past decade or so. However, there are places where a start can be made, and why not with small arms, a rather innocuous term for the proliferation of automatic weapons across the world. Every news reel seems to show the AK-47 being brandished by young men, sometimes in the hands of mere children. In Zimbabwe, we see these weapons every day in the hands of our police: weapons of war issued to civilian police and we are clearly not at war with anyone.

Amnesty International has been running a campaign to limit the accessibility of such weapons for over a decade, but every day sees more and more guns rather than less and less, and for sure it is big business. But this could change if there was the political will.

And different would the world be if small arms were controlled? Try this little thought experiment. A man bursts in to a bank waving a long knife, tells the 20 or so people to lie on the floor, and give him the money. Or, a man bursts into a bank waving an AK-47, tells the 20 or so people to lie on the floor, and give him the money. Failed robbery versus successful robbery? By reducing the means for violence we can perhaps reduce the scale a little.

Of course, this cannot stop violence completely, and certainly nobody can resist against a gang or a mob: they don’t need small arms, as axes, knobkerries, and iron bars can do the damage just as easily as the world learned in Rwanda. It requires a change of mentality from men for women to be safe. No boasting about degrees in violence; no calling one’s opponents “enemies”; just the commitment to solve disagreement and difference the way that women do all over the world, by dialogue and discussion. And perhaps women need to take the lead in how they bring up their sons: to help them value their feminine side – their anima – as well as their masculinity – their animus. This is not as hard as it sounds, and can start in every home, but certainly men and boys will have to stop seeing themselves as so important to the world.

Celebrating achievements by women in politics

Women in politics in Zimbabwe this week have two major reasons to celebrate; Vice President Joice Mujuru earned her PhD in Philosophy and Senator Sekai Holland assumed the position of Interim party President of the MDC Renewal team.

Although Mai Mujuru is not the first woman in Zimbabwe or in her political party, to earn her PhD, she has shown that with hard work and perseverance a woman can do anything she puts her mind while standing up to patriarchy, something she has been doing for the past 30 odd years. Joice Mujuru has many accolades to her name, a legitimate Liberation War veteran, one of the first women commanders in the ZANLA forces, the youngest cabinet minister in Zimbabwe’s first cabinet, taking the portfolio of Sports, Youth and Recreation, the first female Vice President, and now she can add Doctor to her name.

She graduated with a Doctor of Philosophy degree at the 59th University of Zimbabwe graduation ceremony on September 12, 2014. Mai Mujuru received her undergraduate degree from the Women’s University in Africa as well as a Masters in Strategic Management. She also graduated with a Masters Degree in Entrepreneurial Development from Chinhoyi University of Technology. Mai Mujuru said ‘this should inspire my children and other women to pursue education and empower themselves. It was not easy going to school after independence but I persevered. I am a grandmother, a widow and occupy the second office from the first. I have enormous responsibilities but I worked hard.”

On the other side of the political spectrum Senator Sekai Holland has become the Interim party President of the MDC renewal team. In her statement, released on September 16, Senator Holland said she assumes this position because MDC T has failed to live up to its constitutional principles and ‘violence as a means of control and oppression remains a central feature of the Party with accusations never investigated properly that it emanates from the president’s office.’ She says as a torture survivor she cannot continue to be associated with a party that has made no serious effort to eradicate violence and has failed to institute mechanisms to deal with this, especially where thousands of members have been victims, including the president of the party himself.

Sekai Holland, in the same statement, stated that she is deeply embarrassed by the party’s silence on the president’s attitude and behavior towards women. Patriarchy is still very much alive regardless of all the strides that Zimbabwe has made to empower women in a bid to bring about gender equality. Our Constitution in section 80 (1) states every woman has equal dignity of the person with men and this includes equal opportunities in political, economic and social activities. Both Joice Mujuru and Sekai Holland have shown that success for women in their chosen field and in their own right is attainable and congratulations are in order.

This is an inspiration week for women in Zimbabwe, especially for women in politics, as the Women’s Trust said in their campaign ‘Women Can Do it!’


The Succession debate reaches new lows.

So the debate over the appointment of Grace Mugabe reaches new constituencies. The National Council of Chiefs has now weighed in and has endorsed her candidacy. This once again reinforces the point made in RAU’s recent report on succession; that the national constitution and the ZANU PF constitution have become inextricably linked. But it raises also the more serious issue about what does the National Council of Chiefs, or least the President of the National council, think that he or they are doing here taking sides in an internal debate within ZANU PF, and, much more seriously, have they read the new constitution at all.

For those traditional leaders that might be in any doubt about how they should be approaching the succession problem, we invite them to consult the constitution, and particularly Section 281. It is very explicit about what they should actually be doing in respect of the succession debate and leadership in ZANU PF.

281       Principles to be observed by traditional leaders

(1)        Traditional leaders must—

(a)        act in accordance with this Constitution and the laws of Zimbabwe;

(b)        observe the customs pertaining to traditional leadership and exercise their functions for the purposes for which the institution of traditional leadership is recognised by this Constitution;  and

(c)         treat all persons within their areas equally and fairly.

(2)        Traditional leaders must not—

            (a)        be members of any political party or in any way participate in partisan politics;

            (b)        act in a partisan manner;

            (c)         further the interests of any political party or cause;  or

            (d)        violate the fundamental rights and freedoms of any person.

Our reading of Section 281 does not reveal any ambiguities in how the National Council of Chiefs should approach the problem: do not say anything, do not endorse anybody at all, let alone the First Lady, and, above all remember, that it is their duty to treat all persons within their areas equally and fairly.

In addition to the provisions of the new constitution is the Traditional Leaders Act [Chapter 29:11],  promulgated before the new constitution, but saying essentially the same things about the non-partisan nature of traditional leadership. Section 46(1) of the Traditional Leaders Act states clearly that in carrying out their duties the traditional leaders must not be “influenced by any considerations of race, tribe, place of origin, creed, gender or political affiliation”. And the duties of chiefs are equally clear in the Act:

  1. a) promoting and upholding cultural values among members of the community under his jurisdiction, particularly the preservation of the extended family and the promotion of traditional family life;
  2. b) carrying out the functions of a Chief in relation to provincial assemblies (see below);
  3. c) nominating persons for appointment as Headmen by the Minister;
  4. d) approving nominations by Headmen of Village Heads for appointment;
  5. e) supervising Headmen and Village Heads in the performance of their duties;
  6. f) discharging any functions conferred upon him in terms of the Customary Law and Local Courts Act;78
  7. g) overseeing the collection by village heads of levies, taxes, rates and charges payable in terms of the Rural District Councils Act;
  8. h) ensuring that Communal Land is allocated in accordance with the Communal Land Act79and to ensure that the requirements of any enactment in force for the use and occupation of communal or resettlement land are observed;
  9. i) maintaining up-to-date registers of names of villages and their inhabitants
  10. j) preventing any unauthorised settlement or use of any land;
  11. k) notifying the Rural District Council of any intended disposal of a homestead and the permanent departure of any inhabitant from his area, and, acting on the advice of the headman, to approve the settlement of any new settler in his area;
  12. l) adjudicating in and resolving disputes relating to land in his area;
  13. m) and ensuring that the land and its natural resources are used and exploited in terms of the law and, in particular, controlling:

(i) over-cultivation; and

(ii) over-grazing; and

(iii)the indiscriminate destruction of flora and fauna; and

(iv) illegal settlements

and generally preventing the degradation, abuse or misuse of land and natural resources in his area;

  1. n) ensuring that no public property, including roads and bridges, telephone and electricity lines, dip tanks and animal health centres, clinics, churches, cattle-sale pens, schools and related establishments, is damaged, destroyed or misused by the inhabitants or their livestock;
  2. o) notifying the Rural District Council for the area concerned, as soon as is reasonably practicable, of the outbreak of any epidemic or prevailing disease, flood or other natural or unnatural disaster affecting the inhabitants, livestock, crops, the land, flora or fauna in his area;
  3. p) liaising with and assisting development committees established in terms of the Rural District Councils Act in all matters relating to the planning and implementation of local development programmes; and
  4. q) under the direction of the District Administrator or the Rural District Council, as the case may be, assisting drought and famine relief agencies in coordinating relief and related matters in his area.

As can been, these duties are all important aspects of rural life, many of which can be the focus of disputes between citizens, and citizens living within the area of jurisdiction of a chief can have the expectation that dispute will be dealt with in a non-partisan and impartial fashion uninfluenced by any considerations of race, tribe, place of origin, creed, gender or political affiliation. So, the constitution and the Traditional Leaders Act are not in conflict, and traditional leaders need to take heed of both, and take the lead in constitutionalism for the sake of those for whom they are responsible.

From “guided democracy” to “guided succession”?

The debate at the SAPES Trust Policy Dialogue Forum on succession last night, 4th September 2014, offered an insight into why Zimbabwe lurches from crisis to crisis, and why the international community (and investors) is so chary about engaging the country. Derek Matyszak, talking about succession in the Presidency, both the national President and the president of ZANU PF, pointed out that the problem with the new (2013) constitution is that, by default, it imports the ZANU PF constitution into the solution for succession. And as he pointed out, and has argued in a detailed analysis, the problems inherent in the ZANU PF constitution may attenuate the crisis. But since “guided democracy” has always been the way in ZANU PF, perhaps we should worry less about what the ZANU PF constitution says, and try to look into the crystal ball about what exactly are Robert Mugabe’s intentions. Will he guide the succession or leave it to his afterlife?

Stephen Chan, by contrast, offers the “guided succession” view. He did point out how desperately serious is the interaction between succession (and political settlement) and the economic survival of Zimbabwe. He was at pains to point out that, in order for Zimbabwe to attract the critically needed financial assistance, investors and donors need both clarity about the political security of the nation and economic policies that will ensure stability and growth. These latter do not need a genius macro-economist to tell us what to do, and since the SAPES conference earlier this year, it is clear that all local economists, bankers, and business men know what needs to be done. Little happens because the succession problem just won’t go away, and the political governance of both the present and the future remains uncertain.

However, Chan has an optimistic solution: “guided succession”. Offering the view that Mugabe’s elevation to the senior posts in the AU and SADC is a plan by the wise men in Africa to offer Mugabe a graceful exit (no pun intended), and that succession will be a process not an event. Hence, Mugabe will be inveigled to hand over in two years’ time, leaving the party two years to prepare a candidate for the 2018 elections. The question of which candidate is argued to be largely irrelevant since ZANU PF will easily win this election due to the parlous state of the opposition parties.

In Chan’s view, therefore, the anomalies in the ZANU PF constitution and the potential constitutional crisis that could be produced were Mugabe to die, or be unable to carry out his office, are not important. The party will not fragment, but will produce a successor in some fashion.

However, from Matyszak’s perspective, and Zimbabwean citizens generally, will this succession be “lawful”: will the ZANU PF constitution have been followed? The point here is that we, the citizens of Zimbabwe, have had 34 years, during which constitutionalism has been increasingly abandoned, both because of guided democracy and also because it is frequently just too inconvenient, politically speaking, to adhere explicitly to the constitution and the law. This is one of the reasons why there is no foreign direct investment or donor support for balance of payments: no-one is certain that the rule of law will be followed, and surely the manner of succession can strongly reinforce the rule of law or continue to undermine it.

Thus, clarity about succession is critical to restoring confidence and trust in the government.

Firstly, will ZANU PF follow its own constitution in electing a successor for the presidency? And as a starter it would be nice if more than Derek Matyszak knew what was in that constitution, and citizens could be reassured that ZANU PF has some kind of commitment to constitutionalism by making plain to the country (and everyone else) how they go about electing their leadership in a constitutional manner. A constitution that seems a secret document is not a reassuring basis on which to develop trust, and the possibility of a constitutional crisis, which Derek Matyszak suggests can happen, is not a good advertisement for the future, and for present trust in the Zimbabwe government.

Secondly, whether we like the result of the 2013 elections or not, the fact is that ZANU PF will govern until 2018, and may very well, as Stephen Chan argues, win that election too. It does not seem impossible, therefore, for the party to publicly indicate how succession will take place if it is not going to follow the (sort-of) explicit provisions of their constitution. If they are going to give us “guided succession”, well just give it to us, and then one problem can be solved – the matter of political confidence – and we can move onto the more fundamental problem of restoring the economy and giving citizens their livelihoods back.

But, thirdly, perhaps the issue is really that which Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga pointed out, and is inherent in the immense powers of the presidency. As she pointed out, whatever constitutions say, Robert Mugabe is his own man, keeps his own counsel, makes up his own mind, and this is wholly opaque. Succession depends on what Robert Mugabe wants, and he gives us no clues. Thus, no matter what the national constitution says, no matter what the ZANU PF constitution says, no matter what the wise men of the AU and SADC think, and no matter what the international community wants, we, the Zimbabwean citizenry, wait for him to decide, as he has always done.

But, and here’s a thought, and raised at SAPES by a young mathematician from UZ, why do we citizens always wait for the elites to decide, and what can we do to get clarity? Join ZANU PF and demand a copy of the ZANU PF constitution? Try to use the courts to see whether there is the possibility that we can force ZANU PF into internal constitutionalism? Since the ZANU PF constitution, courtesy of their “overwhelming” victory at the polls in 2013, now is tacitly incorporated into the national constitution, don’t citizens have right to know explicitly what will happen and who will take charge? Or will we just meander along from “guided democracy” to “guided succession” and back to “guided democracy”? And why even bother with elections, just create a dynasty!

Tony Reeler, Senior Researcher