As Zimbabwe is in the dying moments of the land-marking elections of the 30th of July 2018, this last week Zimbabwe had the rare occasion in years, of hosting the team of ‘The Elders’. Amongst many of the activities they engaged in the last week in Zimbabwe, the team comprising of Excellencies Mary Robinson former president of the Ireland, Kofi Annan former Secretary General of the United Nations and Lakhdar Brahimi former Foreign Minister of Algeria and UN Envoy attended the Citizens Convention hosted by the Citizens Manifesto, under the theme #OurZimbabweDream this last friday the 20th of July. I was privileged to be the Host of the event on the day and a sister, Sakhile Sifelani joined me in the part with the elders session at the convention. “The Elders” is an international organisation of public figures noted as statesman, peace activists, human rights advocates, who were brought together by the Former South African President, Nelson Mandela 2007, working together for peace and human rights.
Their trip to Zimbabwe last week is inspired by the activities in our country, to see for themselves the goings on as we build to the water-shed elections, as the International observers continue to arrive. The trip by The Elders was also so that they could hear the citizens voices, observe the elections be able to influence internationally and share their own opinion of whats happening in the country. While in Zimbabwe The Elders met with The President Emmerson Mnangagwa, opposition political party leaders Nelson Chamisa amongst many groups of interest. What inspired this article is the opinions of The Elders that they shared with the media in Zimbabwe that is sparking conversations in our country right now, and some of which i’ve addressed here on my blog Nyaradzo Yangu, in local media and on my TV Show IDentities Umhlobo that comes out on ZBC TV every Friday. I will share my thoughts as inspired by this visit. Seat back, grab a cup of coffee because we are going to need more coffee!
The Biggest Political Sin that MDC Alliance and ZanuPF Created
From time immemorial, ZanuPF has engaged in politics of violence, they have used women as scapegoats to achieve results that they want. From the time of Joice Mjuru ouster, to the rising and falling of Grace Mugabe, men have used women as the fighting ground. While probably Joice Mujuru threatened the promotion of ED and he had to remove her by mounting pressure on former president Robert Mugabe and on Grace Mugabe to achieve his goal, the same was done by G40 to fight ED. Women’s strengths of brevity can be manipulated and misused by men to reach what they want and hence G40 used Grace Mugabe to fight ED who in turn seems to have won the battle by removing Mugabe himself also winning a battle against the G40. As the coup-not-coup succeeded and President Mnangagwa assumed office, he evidently disregarded the constitutional requirement of ensuring equality in leadership thus promotion of women in both the presidium and cabinet. As we build to the forth coming elections, the existing presidium does not have women in leadership, and we have no clue if at all he plans to atleast have a woman candidate as a vice president should he win this coming election.
Just two weeks ago at a church conference with the Vapositori (Apostolic Church) of Marange, president Mnangagwa allowed the misled, human rights abusers at the shrine where he was campaigning, to speak down on women. He did not correct the utterances of a Mupositori leader who said that women were not allowed to lead in this country. As a responsible leader, he had the legal obligation to correct that misnomer because the same notions allow children to be married young and to older men at these shrines, he allowed these men who do not value women to continue speaking dehumanising language in his presence and that of media without correcting them. While President Mnangagwa has been largely singing the song of peace during elections, we’ve seen through online videos that some of his supporters were either intimidating citizens through seeking to profile supporters of opposition parties in villages. We have also seen videos crop up online of some supporters being asked of their voter registration serial numbers. Just a few days ago we saw a gang of men wearing Zanupf regalia bragging about their years of violence under the ZanuPF ticket and as they laughed the matter off, one of them shot his gun in the air to the amusement of his friends.
When Zimbabweans saw this clip there was such dismay, and also a confirmation of what citizens and other political parties have always claimed over the years that the party had induced fear, violence and probably murders as we saw in that video. In one of his recent speeches at a rally a few days ago, President Mnangagwa said something to the effect that; ‘its good to see such crowd coming to our rallies without being forced as we know that in the past there has been door to door asking of people to attend rallies’ (paraphrased). Again this is confirmation that ZanuPF has in the past used violence, and is probably still doing. What remains to be seen is how the President and the party ensures that the same message that he preaches is directed at those grassroots mobilisers where the actual violence occurs.
The Nelson Chamisa’s MDC started the politics of violence and populism immediately after the passing on of their leader Morgan Tsvangirai this past February. Even before Tsvangirai was buried, Nelson Chamisa was already campaigning for the reigns of the party. In one of his speeches in the city centre while the body of Tsvangirai was in the mortuary, Chamisa claimed that he was the anointed leader by Tsvangirai to take over. The events that followed after that were sad to any sober citizen and worse for women. Sexism and chauvinism had been reigning publicly in the MDC T when Tsvangirai was alive. He was womanising, sighing children with different women, promising marriages and not fulfill, marrying and breaking up with a woman 3 months later and remarrying in the process. One female leader in the MDC T who got questioned about Tsvangirai’s womanising during the peak of this behaviour said that; He (Tsvangirai) was a bull, communicating that his womanising resembled that he was man enough, a notion synonymous with negative masculinities that often carry abuse of women, violence and their dehumanisation. Now, to listen to a whole opposition party that is supposed to have gender equality as its tenets have its female leaders stooping that low defending men misbehaviour publicly was the time MDC T lost my respect. During that time It forced me to read their Manifesto which shockingly ‘speaks about gender equality’. OMG, in that moment i realised this was just another joke! Zimbabwe was at cross roads!
In 2016 Moragn Tsvangirai appointed two vice Presidents; Nelson Chamisa and Mudzuri. The moment i heard the announcement i saw the out-sting of Khupe immediately with the pushing in of 3 male presidium members with one woman, a clear statement that the opposition didn’t regard women as equals, or able members of our society. In their rightful senses, why would anybody appoint 2 more leaders when there was already a vice, and worse with two more males?. That dear reader, was the climax of sexism within the MDC. Fast forwarding to the violence Khupe suffered at the burial of Tsvangirai at the hands of the Nelson Chamisa supporters, and the Bulawayo violence against Khupe again, it was surprising that masses were still supporting Chamisa. Nelson Chamisa went on to offer an imagined ’18 year old sister’ to Emmerson Mnangagwa ‘if he managed to win this election by a 5% margin, an issue that he said was a ‘joke’.. A JOKE MR PRESIDENT, a JOKE MR LAWYER? A JOKE of volunteering an 18 year old to a more than 75 year old? Its called sexism, objectification of women, disrespect of women’s human dignity, its called abusing women, its called you are insensitive, its called you do not know women’s rights, its called you might be worse than ED when it comes to women’s rights!
Ofcourse the patriarchal parts of Zimbabwe that supports MDC T didn’t find any of that statement problematic. First of all because more than 33% women are married below their 18th birthday to older men whats the big deal? Secondly women get objectified the whole time, get over yourselves! Thirdly women’s rights aren’t part of democracy and human’s rights, since when did women matter? Well we don’t care if they make the 52% right? For questioning Chamisa on that chauvinism and sexism online, on radio and on TV, i gained a lashing, bullying and i got allocated political parties and called names by both Chamisa supporters on social media, members of civil society who openly support MDC T and of course some females who are also targeting positions in the opposition at whatever costs.
As Chamisa consolidated power, he went on to try to force MDC that Thokozani Khupe leads through approaching the courts to drop the use of the name MDC T. Whatever technicalities that made the courts make his application unsuccessful, Chamisa supporters manifested their utter disgust and bashing of women in public during that time. They called Thokozani Khupe “Hure”, directly translate ‘A Prostitute, a Bitch, a Whore”, they sang songs in her presence as she tried to leave the courts with her fellow supporters such as Linda Masaira and other MDC T party leaders. Chamisa has never strongly told his supporters to end violence against women, if anything his actions have led the supporters to read clearly that strong women cannot lead in their party, that they are to be elbowed out of politics the way he did Khupe, that they are to be brought down by sexism and profane as his supporters did and i’m sure he was sucking that in and feeling good. Feeling good as women are brought down or belittled as we heard Chamisa himself telling his wife that she was to be a stay at home wife. In one of his campaign trails, he is on recording saying women cannot go to lead or run for public engagements. He tells the crowds that his wife cannot be running around in public matters but to stay at home put.. “Handina mukadzi anombetuka mbetuka sevakadzi vana Mnangagwa. Mukadzi anogara kumba“. (My wife cannot be seen running around in public politics or life, she’s to stay at home unlike Mnangagwa’s wife who’s busy with public life). Any woman in this country and any progressive man ought to have been bothered by such childish and undermining of women’s rights in our constitution when a whole potential president says such utterances! He undermines the constitution and incites the public to refuse their wives to participate in public life. The wife of Chamisa is seen in the video embarrassed and probably wishing the earth to swallow her with embarrassment!
A few months ago a founding member of the MDC, a prolific fighter of human and women’s rights, the most performing member of parliament who has challenged many issues in our country including the Mugabe leadership to enforce order and development, was pushed out of the Chamisa MDC. Chamisa sought to replace Jessie Majome with a young woman Joana Ruvimbo Mamombe citing that Jessie had had enough time to serve and therefore she should leave her constituency Harare West. Jessie was eventually pushed to be running in Harare West as an independent candidate. In her resignation, Jessie mentions inconsistencies and bad faith in implementation of the rules in the MDC. While Chamisa’s administration of the MDC Alliance claim that they made efforts to meet with Jessie to discuss the issues, in her dismay Jessie shares that there was lack of commitment from Chamisa to follow through the process. In the end Jessie is running as an independent candidate. While i personally advocate for young women like Joana’s inclusion in leadership and politics, gender inequalities and women exclusion in politics is always done by men to use women against each other so that the women are the ones to blamed. I can understand the interest and desire by Joana to assume office, but this should be done in the spirit of dignity, awareness of gender dynamics in politics and that at any point in life this can be done to her, and that ageism is often a card played against women. What us young women need to realise is that in the case of Jessie, if Chamisa wanted to empower Joana and was pushing for inclusion of young women and also valued Jessie’s leadership and respected the democracy that put Jessie Majome as MP for Harare West for all these years, Chamisa would have sent Joana Mamombe to another constituency that has a man because we have more men in leadership anyway, than to seek to undemocratically and dubiously remove a cadre like Jessie. It must bother all of us and Zimbabweans must ask these important questions.
Chamisa goes on to acknowledge that his party has failed in ensuring gender equality during the launch of his manifesto, but also generally has lacked the political will to address his party to refrain from dehumanising women. In recent days we’ve seen the ‘Hure'(bitchs) word being sung and uttered again by the political party supporters of the MDC Alliance under Chamisa’s lead. They have been singing the same word to Justice Priscillah Chigumba who is the Chair Person of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC). In one of the recent petitions the Chamisa MDC Alliance handed over to ZEC, Justice Chigumba acknowledges that she couldn’t be at the meeting because she heard the MDC Alliance supporters singing the ‘bitch’ word and who in their normal senses would avail themselves to such continued violence and dehumanisation crowd? Its violent enough to hear it in your office, but why would she do that to herself and to the entire womanhood? Through-out his campaign trail, Nelson Chamisa has not announced his Vice President and again who knows if a woman is even part of the process?
Most recently, the notorious Baba Jukwa started digging dirt on Priscillah Chigumba accusing her of an affair with a member of the party of the ruling party, after having failed to prove that it was a presidential candidate, an affair which is imagined in a manner to tarnish her image. This is a clear effort by whoever is behind this to desperately prove that Justice Chigumba is compromised, to make this election compromised, inciting people and absolutely keep this country in one place of backwardness. While Zimbabweans especially those in the MDC and the G40 continue to abuse people on line, one thing remains that there is the under utilisation of the law to sue people who tarnish other people’s names online. Citizens especially supporters of the opposition have been notorious in fabricating stories and tarnishing people’s names, and its high time they get sued so that they know that once destroyed, a name may be hard to restore, ensuring that offenders such as these notorious party supporter and their leaders pay for the pain the fabrications caused to the victims and their families.
The Sin to this Nation
The two major political party processes with regards to women have not shown that they are committed to total human rights in this country. What ZanuPF has done to use women, to disregard women in leadership has been amplified 100% by the MDC Alliance and the craftiness of Chamisa. Chamisa has literally elbowed women, any strong powerful and objective woman out of his political party that he deems threatening. As women we must be worried, it means in this country you can’t be an ambitious woman and find safe spaces with brothers to dream. The leadership will play dirty at you, will have supporters sing dirty and dig dirty laundry at you to intimidate you into silence and while they watch. The polarised citizenry whose males thrive on bringing women down and whose other women are so abused and dehumanised that they cause other women to look aside on threats and dehumanisation at the expense of showing loyalty to these sexist political parties is troublesome, and is not the Zimbabwe we want. The Zimbabwe we want has leaders who respect human rights and dignity which include women’s rights. The Zimbabwe that should come out of 30 July must include leaders who observe the constitutional rights of gender equality and other human rights and accountability.
MDC Alliance Missing the Mark with the Elders
While the supporters of Nelson Chamisa would call anybody who criticised him an enemy, and while Chamisa himself maximised on the ignorance, the chauvinism of his party in abusing women by not questioning him, the international community isn’t that polarised. Chamisa has lied and lied and his supporters have not questioned that. Elders in his own political party such as David Coltart whom i would have expected to get it and advise him on what to do have not lifted a finger around the abuse of women on line and in their political party by MDC Alliance members, (i’ve tagged him several times on twitter he hasn’t responded). The elbowing of Khupe, Jessie Majome and now Justice Priscillah Chigumba says volumes. Now history and the world will certainly judge this, but most importantly The Elders!
What we saw on Hard Talk in the United Kingdom where Chamisa was held to account for most of his lies, the international community will hold him to, including the sexism, chauvinism and violence against women by his own political party. I mentioned above that i’ve been abused by fellow civil society members who support the MDC for question Chamisa sexism, what is sad is that the same players who advance human rights, democracy and accountability do not see anything wrong in the abuse of women that has been going on. To them democracy and human rights exclude women’s human dignity. However the international community pays attention and have seen the gross human rights violations and gender based violence being perpetuated especially by the MDC Alliance at the watch of Chamisa. The physical violence against Thokozani Khupe, the emotional violence against Justice Chigumba and Honorable Jessie Fungayi Majome, and other Human Rights Defenders like myself are in the eyes of the international community. This past week in her address in Zimbabwe at the Citizens Convention, Elder Mary Robinson former President of Ireland addressed the violence in this election against women including that perpetuated against Justice Chigumba, and they know where this violence is coming from. In her speech at the Citizens Convention on Friday, Mary Robinson applauded the constitution of Zimbabwe which she said has good gender coverage but she mourned the failure to implement to protect women from abuse.
The Mugabe-ism in the MDC Alliance
MDC supporters demonises anybody and has maximised on the politics of populism and ignored reason, objective criticism and the leadership has also failed to provide proper direction just like we saw it with President Emmerson Mnangagwa during his visit to the Vapositori shrine where he could have corrected them to say women are equal human beings, meaning he would have respected the 52% of those women in attendance at that shrine by humanising them and teaching those men that women are human beings. Any citizen who questions Chamisa is automatically tagged Zanupf supporter and Chamisa is in support of that. As he consolidates his power, it becomes clear that any person who raises criticism in his party will be thrown out, and hence democracy is compromised as seen also in the outline of all women who have been pushed out of this party as outlined above. Kofi Annan also pointed out the inciting by the political parties and its evident that it was directed at the MDC Alliance and Chamisa particularly. The politics of populism that Chamisa has ridden on for all this while has now exposed him to the international community. While Kofi Annan encouraged citizens and political parties to approach the courts for any issues regarding this election, he warned against careless utterances and demands that are unrealistic that can put the country at a halt at the expense of interests of the few. Responsible leadership is required to end utterances by the likes of Chamisa that assume that should he loose then the election is not free and fair. This also is the same behaviour as the one he demonstrated when he approached the United States with Tendai Biti last year in December when the public felt they were calling for sanctions to stay unless what THEY want is delivered. That kind of behaviour can be said to be inciting, misinformation, irresponsible and selfish. What we have seen with the sanctions is that it is the critical masses that suffer, the brain drain and the under development of Zimbabwe does not need that right now. The message of The Elders therefore cautions against unwarranted call for nullification of results of July 30 or such trajetories hence their advise on being realistic on demands.
Not my President!
As i end this long opinion piece, Zimbabwean political parties need to reflect seriously on their treatment of women and how they are influencing their follower-ship and leadership. They need to realise that they owe their masses success. While they blindly lead their masses in bad behaviour and allow the illegalities to go on, the citizens will only realise later that their own leaders let them down when they didn’t provide for proper solid framework built and established on true Responsible, human rights respect and tenets of democracy. The opposition parties such as MDC Alliance who are supposed to provide the alternative, must have won the hearts of The Elders if they had chosen to do things the right way thus respecting women’s rights, increasing accountability and allowing women to lead in their rightful places and also committing to speaking out against violence. Engaging ZEC should have been done legally in the spirit of oneness, with respect for human dignity and with respect for Justice Chigumba’s office, rather than bullying and dehumanising her yet ZEC is an institution not an individual. When The Elders like Mary Robinson and Kofi Annan come here to our country and address our own citizens on violence instead of us speaking with one voice pushing for ZEC to do its job, where we are not abusers of each other but speaking and respecting each other with one voice, then we would have strengthened our chances of delivering on the Zimbabwe we want on 30 July. As an alternative solution to our country, the opposition led by Nelson Chamisa should have learnt from Barack Obama, a history maker who was elevated by women.
Women are a critical mass! Loosing women’s movement and causing us to frown upon him is loosing a critical mass that can help him attract the local and international community. Therefore in this election as a woman, i do not see anything good that Chamisa can do for me, as much as i have problems with ED’s commitment to equality in appointment of women. Nelson Chamisa, whether he wakes up on 1 August a president or not, he has caused me to fail to respect him by his lies and his disrespect for women. At the same time i respect the Zimbabweans feelings that they want change, any change thats different from Zanupf in whose hands they feel they have lost more than 20years of development. While its obviously difficult to judge Mnangagwa’s ability to change this country with only 6 months as a leader, the traits of sexism by the visibly male presidium and old cabinet is a total put off. Women in Zanupf should be allowed to stand their own such as Monica Mutsvangwa who inspite of being married to Christopher deserve their own recognition. ED seems to have the maturity and the stability that Zimbabwe needs as it re-engages the international community to take this country forward, but is he really ready to let go of the corruption and his corrupt officials, who since the Mugabe regime have felt untouchable and not bound to be answerable to Zimbabweans such as Obert Mpofu? Is he ready to appoint a female vice president even from Matabeleland in his premium should he win? Are these male presidents ready to appoint a 50/50 cabinet? Don’t tell me there are not enough women because there are!! This country has been failed by men therefore deserve women leaders. Finally, is ED ready to be transparent in his engagement with the investors and putting the best interests of Zimbabwe first in the so called “Zimbabwe is open for business”?
Well this dear reader, is meant to tickle your mind, make you angry, but come to your reason and challenge your own comfort zone! How is our Coffee jar doing? Till next time..
“Sun-Downers” are periodic (hopefully every Sunday) personal thoughts on my blog with me Nyaradzo Nyari Mashayamombe, Human Rights Activist, Founder and Executive Director of Tag a Life International (TaLI), a Girls and Young women’s rights Organisation, Executive Producer and Host of IDentities Umhlobo, a TV Show currently on ZBC TV that talks about Social, Economic and Political Issues, Recording singer/song writer, Entrepreneur, and lover of All things good in life! Follow me on twitter @nyarimash, Instagram @nyarimash.