Category Archives: Human Rights

Reflecting on the Zimbabwe we Want


Nyaradzo Mashayamombe,

Nyaradzo ‘Nyari’ Mashayamombe during a courtesy call with the Minister of Primary & Secondary Education Prof Paul Mavima.

Reading the former Prim Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s New Year statement has made me thinking on a lot of things, has enabled me to reflect on my own journey as an activist and the journey i’m walking even now, he has articulated many issues that i feel about the current leadership and yet i’ve managed to reflect on him as a leader too and i’ve decided to put pen to paper lest i’l never do it.

I have great respect for the man as a leader for what he’s achieved, the pain he went through and a true living  ‘Heroe ‘ amongst us and ones who remains such For that i give him his calculated respect. Calculated because as a democratic leader he’s also let me down big time. See, many men masquerade as democrats yet they ignore one of the greatest tenets of democracy being; equality between women and men. Anybody who argues this is a good measure of stupidity and immaturity. Yes i said it!

Tsvangirai is one man who’s greatly abused women, objectified them and has gone to the extent of showing how he not only despise women in his own personal life through the way he treated Loocadia his second wife, but also the many women that he impregnated and dumped. The worst is his appointment of 2 more male vice presidents where through clear chauvinism he has chosen to ignore the democratically elected female vice president to elevate her to the 1st VP with possibility of promoting her to President, but he’s appointed his runner boys the likes of Nelson Chamisa who is visibly vying to be the next president should Tsvangirai resign. Its clear that Khuphe is a woman therefore not being pushed as the next president. If she was a man, would we be seeing Chamisa running around the way he’s doing? That is where i lost all the respect for Tsvangirai, his disregard and treatment of women as second class citizens as well as his lack of substance in issues that i won’t get into right now!

Mr Tsvangirai touched me though, when he spoke about the visit President Mnangagwa and the VP had this past week as a courtesy call to his, which he appreciated and received in the spirit of ‘well-meaning’ and goes on to explain that he wishes this symbolises the feeling that opposition isn’t treated like an enemy but a necessity for democracy, and that every Zimbabwean who rises up to say something about our country is well viewed as well meaning.

Thank you for just putting that to paper, thank you for verbalising that. Over the past days i’ve pondered a lot about this. When Zimbabweans engage they shouldn’t be treated like enemies for wanting more for their country. The Zimbabwe we want moving forward is what us as citizens will build. The environment and circumstances are ripe and allowing. We’ve come from a dispensation where everything was controlled, where you couldn’t say exactly what was on your mind about our country without fearing for your life. I’ve said a couple of things during the past regime regarding human rights  where i’ve felt unsafe to the extend that i feared for my life. I even reached the extent during that regime where i didn’t answer an unsolicited knock on my door because of that fear of endangerment. Relatives and friends even warned me of some of the things i raised publicly as they feared for my life. I see around me this behaviour is crippling back into our midst, people who can’t say whats on their mind or people who come telling you how you ought to be careful for your life and this pains me because it shouldn’t be like that, we dreamed of a free society. I’ve even experienced respectable authorities treating me like i’m an enemy when i address national issues like basic education in the new campaign that we launched.

When i personally took to the streets on the 18th of November, i had in mind an open society, i had in mind a dream of a democracy where any member from the civil society would engage for the development of our country freely, without fearing for life, without feeling alienated for having a different opinion. I had a dream of a constructive country where leadership would engage every Zimbabwean to build this country and to take it forward, realising that no one person can do it by themselves. I had a vision for a Zimbabwe where we would all mature to the fact that most people are not enemies, civil society groups are not enemies, the opposition parties are not enemies but all necessary for taking our country forward. I even got interviewed on the 18th of November 2017 on the national television ZBC News Online and i braved to speak out why i was marching, i said ‘i’m matching for children to go to school! Through my work with Tag a Life International (TaLI) i’d long witnessed children who can’t access education because they do not have that money to go and enrol for the first time and therefore were shut out of schools. I noted that the existing policies protected those children who are already in school, so i spoke out that day, and many saw me on tv and were shocked why i wasn’t scared to speak, we hadn’t crossed over, but i had faith! I even sang #KutongaKwaro so much cause it was a song to the destiny we wanted, a free constructive and objective Zimbabwe, where we all contributed to the building and restoration of our country’s legacy.

Indeed reflecting on what happened to activists in Bulawayo this last week bothered all of us to the democratic and free Zimbabwe we dreamed of. They are part of the people who took to the streets to remove a government that had bothered all of us on the 18th of November, which for them maybe that dream was to have open dialogue, rather than rule of fist which we all loathed. Issues in our nation need to be addressed, however our biggest dream is to live in a country where dialogue is accepted, tolerated, not viewed with suspicion but as a means of development, that is what education does! It allows opinions and learns from others. The #Zimbabwe we want is not to the service and interests of a few individuals in power, it is for every child of this great nation, to have a common vision made real by the respect of our constitution and the rule of law.

When we launched the #EveryChildInSchool #ECIS campaign on December 14 last year, we received massive backlash from the new Minister through this Herald article. This is a man that i’d just met a few days prior and who’d seemed so promising (in the quick chat about this campaign that we’d had when i went to leave a letter to ask for an appointing and as we managed to steal a moment to take this photo). I was so excited for a future meeting because i thought we would work together, to advocate and push the government so that we would have #EveryChildInSchool. We’d been all excited that the former minister Dokora who had treated Civil Society like enemies and made the ministry staff and people feel like a God and Satan relationship was gone. We thought things had changed and that we were engaging a colleague, a partner. I’d be naive to think that he would take us just as objective Zimbabweans with something to say, because of our experiences in serving our communities. The second response that we received wasn’t the case, we felt like we’d become his enemies due to the quality of his response to this great campaign which he now has warmed up to.

The reason i bring this is so that as Zimbabweans we can have open dialogue about the standard of public services that we deserve.  The kind of culture that we will accept from our civil servants if this dispensation is true to its self proclamation. Its us who allow it, we can choose to be timid and be walked all over, or choose to be respected and treated right by those that we employ. We have a chance to reshape the Zimbabwe that we want in this volatile environment where even our leaders seem to be unsure, we can help them settle in by defining the standard of service that we want, which can be founded on respect and trust for every Zimbabwean, according to our constitution. We cannot keep quiet and fall into the former regime traits, we need to speak out when our freedom and citizenry is threatened. We should expect professionalism and respect from our public officers, it is alright and well deserved and for the development of our country. Civil Society organisations are watch dogs representing our communities in making sure public officers such as ministers deliver on what they promised, on our national policies and laws, and we keep them accountable as well as partner with them. The days of civil servants treating us like trash should be GONE, IN should be a culture of treating every Zimbabwean with an opinion, an idea with respect, even if they decide to not implement.

Accountability and governance entails public officers to listen, learn, take notes, show that they have listened and assure the stakeholders and public that indeed they will action, and sometimes invite and engage the originators of the ideas, non dismissive, or abusive of office through yelling or shouting at stakeholders, that is the civilisation Zimbabwe deserves and the kind of service our new dispensation should usher. Public office is about serving people. We should not be afraid to say the truth, we should rise up and engage our ministers, public officers (all government staff) and tell them the truth about what our expectations are (and this is also true according to the New President’s declaration and proclaimed standards that he called on government officers that it was no longer going to be business as usual, and we bought into that resonating dream! If we disagree, it should be respectfully and the next moment we laugh and seat on the same table together not taking things personal. GONE should be the days when ministers needed to know everything and wouldnt engage people, IN are the days when all Zimbabweans, educated and non educated seat at the table and have dialogue about the future they want, they see, learn from each other and participate with each other. They should accept constructive criticism and not be defensive. Public officers especially ministers must realise they are there to serve people, and not to harass or look down upon people.

National resources like radios, televisions, newspapers should benefit every Zimbabwean not set aside for a few select. When airwaves are not open, it is the beginning of authoritarianism, departure of transparency and accountability. National resources should benefit everyone without discrimination.

I want a Zimbabwe where i can constructively contribute. I’m blessed with brains, i’m educated because my government educated me, therefore i MUST use those brains to educate and develop my country, and no-one should hinder that development. No one person knows everything and owns a ministry or office. #IknowItAllAttitudesMustFall in our government’s departments and ministries. #MinistersMustWorkWithEveryone #NotoTokenism#TreatingFellowZimbabweansasEnemiesMustFall#AccountabilityMustIncreaseInPublicOfficers#CivilServantsMustHaveHumility#MInistryOfPrimaryandSecondaryEducationMustReform#AttitudesMustChange


Getting Personal with Gender Based Violence(GBV)

Nyari Nyaradzo MashayamombeNyaradzo Mashayamombe Speaking at Forum 2000 in The Czech Republic October 2017

Until you’ve been a victim of rape, physical violence, emotional trauma, then #metoo or #16DaysofActivism won’t mean anything to you. Until you’ve had a daughter sexually assaulted, a wife raped, a sister physically harassed or yourself felt unprotected, then you will want us to be silent. I’ve been exposed to emotional abuse as a child, I had near sexual abuse moments that play in my head that sometimes I wonder how it didn’t happen, at the hands of older relatives. I’ve suffered physical violence at the hands of those close to me as a result of the work that I do to speak out against GBV and holding especially men to contribute their own share in their families through either house work or productivity.

I’ve been asked questions like ‘are you married’ as a way of silencing me because most of women who are married are expected to keep quiet on Gender Based Violence (GBV). I’ve seen people side with perpetrators of violence in a painful way leaving you the victim questioning the worthiness of your own life. I’ve witnessed police asking women to go back home and address the GBV sending them right into the arms of the perpetrator and I’ve myself been asked by a male police officer to go and ‘deal with the issue since it regards a relative’.  This is a simple example of the failure of justice system to protect victims of abuse simply because most times the male officers have biases, that they are also subjecting their own wives to the abuse and they’d rather sympathize with perpetrators. In all this as a Human Right Defender I’ve leant a couple of lessons;

1. The abused person has to look out for themselves most times as relatives simply take side of the perpetrator! They are going to play down your suffering and protect the perpetrator. My advise is as a victim whose being abused, have your own back, take action and go against everyone seeking to silence you because in their silencing, you are loosing your own self-confidence, your own self worth, you are inviting continued perpetration and you are making abusing you ok for everyone watching! Reporting doesn’t mean divorce in the case of those married, it means you are asking your partner to put boundaries, having him/her picked by the police and having some punishment helps them understand that you are a human being who is to be respected, valued and loved and that if they don’t see that for themselves then you will take steps to help them respect you. This is also for those violating for the first time, if the person is known for perpetual abuse or the second time, certainly take drastic measures like asking for protection order or asking that the person leaves the environment or house until they get help.

2. There is tremendous hostility for people especially women who suffer violence and try to seek justice. When I had this nasty experience, I was clear that I would not allow a person to go without some accountability, and taking steps ensured that I attracted amazing hostility and backlash. In that moment I leant that someone thought my life wasn’t worth that much as I thought I was worthy through the impunity they gave to the abusive person and hostility that followed because i’d taken action. However it became clear that I was the one responsible for respecting the life God gave me and that nobody had the right to rate my life lower than God means for it through being dehumanized by physical or any form of violence. I realized it was me who controlled that whether I would allow this to go unaddressed, I chose to address it and to deal with the hostility that followed.

3. The notion that victims of abuse especially women are unable to report abuse to get help became so vivid, because if they depend on that man to survive financially, or if they are a muroora (daughter in law) in that family then the whole family will ask her not to report and if she does she invites punishment, so that means for women one has to have a plan, to have economic empowerment so they can make choices and not depend on their abusers.

4. That when a person is physically stronger to abuse you, in the moment of abuse you can feel powerless. I personally felt a sense of being exposed, that the social system that was bound by the relationship contract had been broken and the only next thing that could protect me was the law. As I thought of my next steps being the law I felt some restoration already beginning. As the police arrived I saw my perpetrator feeling subdued and afraid of the police, that gave me back my power to realise that there is something that bring us all equal, thus the law. No wonder why justice in our traditional setups from time immemorial as African people was always there within the traditional courts that made someone pay cattle or have some form of punishment as restitution. The elders knew this was important. Our present day justice system has to work for victims to be restored or for them to begin their healing process. Even as I took steps inspite of opposition, I was happy I was putting myself first and this helped me.

Nyari Mashayamombe Nyaradzo NyaraDuring a #16Days of Activism to end GBV March in Harare 9 December Continue reading Getting Personal with Gender Based Violence(GBV)