Our lives: Perpetual Hunger Games Episodes


By Caroline Kache

DSTV has been showing ‘The Hunger Games’ a gruesome trilogy movie depicting a dystopia. Set in ‘Panem,’ a country consisting of the wealthy Capitol and 12 other districts with varying levels of poverty, the Hunger Games sees two unfortunate candidates, male and female  chosen from each of the poor districts to participate in a compulsory annual televised death match called the Hunger Games. There can only be one winner at the end and butchering the rest is just part of the game.

Watching The Hunger Games, I began to reflect on how our lives are in a perpetual Hunger Games mode. Every day, for the ordinary Zimbabwean, is a fight for survival. The poor die every day to give the wealthy members in our own Capitol their vantage. For instance, the week beginning 12 January, close to 200 families were evicted from Mazowe to pave way for a sanctuary. The photos of the families weeping, spirals of smoke and the ruins of what they once called home pictured in the soot and ashes were heart wrenching. How those responsible for this devastation can live with themselves is beyond me. Or maybe they just don’t care because as in the Hunger Games, they find other people’s misery entertaining!

In the Hunger Games, Katniss (one of the characters) forms a bond with Rue another character) a young girl whom she views as her young sister. They become like sisters, taking care of each other. When Katniss is injured and unconscious, Rue nurses her back to health. But then Rue dies. The agony of Katniss’ loss at the hands of a cruel establishment is a daily reality for many Zimbabweans.

Many people die on Zimbabwe’s major highways. The Harare-Beit bridge route is a nightmare, recording high numbers of deaths every year. Sisters, aunts, uncles, friends perish; their deaths remain impressed in our memories because they could have been averted. Why nothing is ever done is the big question; is it inability to do something about it, or they are just unwilling? How come the same people who do not prioritise raising funds to repair major roads are fast and efficient when raising funds for a party congress or a tour for the first lady? Millions are raised in a few days and splurged on non-events. If the same passion and effort were put to benefit the nation, would we still be stuck in this perpetual prison of poverty? But then, as in the Hunger Games, they thrive on other people’s misery.

Maybe my expectations for our government are too high, or it is because I am part of the poor districts residents that do not understand life in the Capitol. Or am I simple minded to think that humanity demands that we at least ensure that everyone lives with a bit of dignity?

Evicting the poor people in Mazowe without notice or any relocation plan, forcing the displaced people in Chingwizi to live in those deplorable conditions, promising to create an imaginary 2.2 million jobs, widening the gap between the rich and the poor- our government lives in the Capitol-far removed from the districts. They do not understand how every day is a struggle for those in the districts or how the tax they have imposed to make life in the Capitol more comfortable makes life in the districts more and more unbearable.

Is there a solution?

Maybe it is time for Panem to become a democracy! But even if it does it can only be enjoyed by the young who have not experienced the Hunger Games. Those of us who grew up in that era are scarred for life. We will always remember people and things we lost in the games, but that doesn’t mean we will stop trying to change the status quo. Panem must be free and no one should ever struggle unto death whilst someone else enjoys!

Wisdom says the only constant thing in life is change. I would urge our leaders to remember that. In the genius words of Leonard Zhakata who summaries everything so neatly in his song Mugove he says;

vakuru woye ndipeiwo kamukana kangu
ndinyevere vaye vaye
vakawana mukana wekuvepo pamusoro
vakaite mhanza yekukwirepo pamusoro
kwakuchitora mukana uyu sehuchenjeri
wotanga kutsikirira vari pasi
votanga kuchipfira mate vari pasi
kuzvirova dundundu nekuzvitutumadza
ndoti kwete apa vachenjeri marasika

kana wakaberekwa semunhu wese iwe
kana wakadonhawo rukuvhute semunhu wese
pamisoro yose yakati tseketseke nenyika iyi
usazvinyepere usazvifadze nenhema
usazvinyepere usazvifadze nenhema
usazvifurire uchizviita makoya zvese
usazvifurire uchizviita shasha yevose

vaye vaye vaunodzvinyirira
vaye vaye vaunotsikirira
kuchema kwavo munamato mukuru kumatenga
tenzi hakuna anoziva mhinduro
nyangwe nemusi waichauya

deno ndaive ini ndigere paye
deno ndaive ini ndiripo paye
ndairidza huwi
ndodaidzira vamwe vangu
kuno kwabika dopiro vakomana
huya mose huyai munombore

kana paine pamakandichengetera baba
ndinokumbirawo mugove wangu ndichiri kurarama tenzi
tarirai ndosakadzwa sechipfeko nevane mari
ndisina changuwo
ndinongodzikirirwa
ndinongodzvinyirirwa
ndinongoshandiswa nhando
ndichingofondotswa

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My sister’s keeper: her esteem in my hands!


By Caroline Kache

Scenario 1

A woman walking on the streets of Harare; stripped naked for wearing a mini skirt. She boldly continues to walk whilst a huge crowd jeers behind her. Someone gives her a wrap (zambia) to cover herself but even that is taken away from her. Others say she is crazy for continuing to walk like that, but she continues with the little dignity she has left. They have damaged her but have not completely broken her.

This sounds like a script but it actually is the content of a video that has been circulating on social media in Zimbabwe in which a woman was stripped naked for wearing a mini-skirt. The level of intolerance and lack of humanity by those who did this to another human being is unbelievable. She is someone’s sister, mother and aunt! Have we lost all respect for other human beings? Where is the Ubuntu/hunhu we once prided ourselves in? I for one could not believe the number of women in the video who were jeering and following the naked woman. I asked myself, if I had been there what would I have done?

The attack on this woman prompted the #MiniSkirtMarch in Zimbabwe which got social media buzzing. Of particular interest were the comments from women, who felt that a woman should not show her body in that way on the streets. Others felt that the #MiniSkirtMarch was a worthless cause; “couldn’t there have been amarch against child abuse or something more meaningful, hapana mukadzi wemunhu anoita zvakadaro” (no married woman would be part of a march to wear miniskirts in public) they said. This is despite the fact that a number of women have been subjected to sexual harassment on the streets of Harare; married or not.

Scenario 2

“I said her dressing in front of a young man was inappropriate. I was not impressed especially for someone of her stature…That’s when I said she was inappropriately dressed, inappropriately attired. Displaying the thighs,” – in Parliament women approached me about her dressing, saying they had talked to her but she persisted without mentioning any names… – “She wears mini skirts. She must change her style of dressing. Even some of us who have attractive bodies don’t wear mini-skirts that show our thighs, especially in front of children. As mothers who have young growing daughters what lessons do we pass on to them? That is all I was unhappy about.

A few weeks ago the First Lady Grace Mugabe made headlines with her public attack on the Vice President Dr. Joice Mujuru. AmaiMugabe attacked not just the office of the Vice President but she attacked her person and this left many with jaws dropped at the inappropriateness of her actions and words.

If the other female parliamentarians did go to Amai Mugabe to complain about Dr Mujuru’s dressing (though I believe how Dr Mujuru dresses is not anyone’s business) I don’t believe the female parliamentarians’ expectations were that Amai Mugabe would address this issue during her ‘Meet the People Tour” or that she would publicise these concerns in the manner she did. Could she not have handled this issue with the same measure of discretion they did?

Sister’s keeper

My definition of a sister’s keeper is best illustrated by a typical scenario in any gangster movie. There are usually two rival gangs in an area and when two individuals from these gangs get into a brawl, the rest of the members from both gangs will join in the scuffle. Most of the members may not know what the cause of the scuffle is or who is to blame for starting it, but in a heartbeat they jump in to assist their fellow gang members.

That to me is the epitome of sisterhood. Imagine if all men knew that they cannot mess with any woman on the streets of Zimbabwe because all women would join in? Imagine if women walked on the streets in miniskirts and when all the hwindis (touts) started whistling and shouting women would come together and dare the men to touch any woman! Sisterhood is not about right or wrong or whether you feel strongly about an issue. It is about something in you refusing to remain silent when a fellow sister is being humiliated, assaulted or abused.

A friend once told me that true friendship is hearing people say something about a friend and you publicly defend your friend even without verifying if the issue is true or not. I am not saying women should not be admonished or reprimanded when they do wrong; quite the contrary. I am saying it should be done in sisterly love to build each other up instead of looking for a public platform and humiliating a fellow sister, Wisdom says you call her to the side and address your issues in a private space so that when you come out in public no one will know there was a private matter between you! Was it necessary, for Amai Mugabe to address issues of gossip and what happens in Dr. Mujuru’s private life on the public state broadcaster? Dare I say Amai Mugabe painted a picture of herself far worse than that of the person she meant to discredit.

The women who came before us, worked too hard for women’s empowerment for us for us to tear each other down in this way. Being our sisters’ keepers means we protect each other in the public domain; it also means we stand up for each other because for generations women have been said to be cruel to one another. In Shona we say mhandu yemukadzi mukadzi (a woman’s enemy is another woman). We have become our sisters’ enemies. We subject each other to emotional and psychological abuse, force each other to endure painful situations, humiliate each other and break each other’s spirits.

As we commemorate the 16 days of activism against gender based violence this year we must remember that violence is not perpetrated by men alone but can be by other women who have forgotten the true meaning of sisterhood. May Jodi Picoult’s words resonate within our hearts that ‘you don’t love someone because they’re perfect, you love them in spite of the fact that they’re not.’ Let us be our sisters’ keepers!

 

 

STOP IT!!!


By Lloyd Pswarayi

Recently the leading story in the local media was about the First Lady Amai Grace Mugabe on her “Meet the People Tour.” The assumption I had was that the primary role of the Secretary of the Women’s League was to advance the cause of women at both party and national levels.  I expected her on her tours to address issues that affect women and what her grand plan to address these would be.

But alas, the real agenda was revealed when the First Lady began to talk about the Vice President, Dr Joice Mujuru. Amai Mugabe went on to attack Dr Mujuru and all her “demonic” clan, declaring that she (the VP) is incompetent at her job of 10 years. The first lady  also ‘exposed’ that the Vice President is corrupt, an extortionist of the highest order, wears ‘short’ dresses in front of boys in her house and has been doing this since her husband, the General was alive.

There is something seriously wrong with this scenario.

First, we the ‘povo’ have castigated the President in the past for recycling incompetent ministers since Independence. We have raised the issue of corrupt ministers in past and present governments who have plundered the nation’s wealth with some owning whole towns and neighbourhoods. These people remain in office today, “advising the President.” Perhaps Amai Mugabe forgot all the others and only remembered Dr Mujuru?

Second, as Secretary for Women’s affairs in the party, we expected Amai Mugabe to use her position of influence to campaign vigorously to promote the rights of women and children in Zimbabwe. One of the issues currently affecting women and children is child marriage. 3 in every 10 girls get married before they turn 18. Societies keep using the excuse that it is their culture or religion to abuse children by forcing them into marriage.

In a case study we conducted as RAU in Goromonzi early in 2014, we established that most of the children in these marriages come from poor families. Most of them drop out of school due to lack of funds.  Having dropped out of school, they are forced to marry early. In some cases, even the traditional leaders are perpetrating this ugly practice. Perhaps with her influence, Amai should have used the “Meet the People Tours” to tell perpetrators of child marriage to “STOP IT!!” She could have concentrated on figuring out how to raise funds for women so they can send their children to school. Perhaps she should have applied her mind to how the economy can work again so that young girls are not pushed to marry out of desperation to escape poverty.

Child marriages compromise the position of women in society. They rob children of a chance to an education and to pursue their dreams. It denies them a chance to be equal members of society competing fairly with men in contributing to society.

Young girls and women are looking up to people like the First Lady to use her position to ease their burdens. As a leader, “Amai Mugabe should have used her Tour to address these challenges.

All hope is not lost, however, there is still the 16 days of activism against gender based violence- an opportunity for her to stand up and say to everyone responsible for violating Women and Girls “STOP 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.