Not Independent Until Women are Free and Safe: VP Mohadi Must Apologise to the Nation

Zimbabwe marks 39 years of independence from colonisation today. The independence was won by a war of liberation in which women and men,young and old took up arms and fought against the oppressive British colonisers. Reflecting on the narratives of the women who went to waras written by Lyons in Guns and Guerrilla Girls, Zimbabwean women were motivated to fight against colonisation because they believed that national independence will bring with it the emancipation of women in totality. Even the male nationalist fighters promised that the end of colonisation would be the end for patriarchal oppression and the coming of dawn for gender equality. But sadly, 39years on, women in Zimbabwe continue to live in fear as gender-based violence continue to rear its ugly head. Gender based violence is more widespread among women at the lowest strata of the social hierarchy, but it still remains a reality among women of all classes.

No woman is safe from gender-based violence. This is why the total eradication of gender based violence must be a priority to the nation. And as we mark 39 years of independence, it is important to reflect how far the nation is scoring in guaranteeing the independence, freedom and safety of women and girls. This was part of the agenda during the liberation struggle, and so should it remain part of the national agenda in the post-independent Zimbabwe. It is every Zimbabwean’s responsibility to play their part, no one should be above the law, there are no sacred cows when it comes to the freedom and protection of women and girls. And today, the nation should speak loudly and in one voice, in holding leaders who violate oath of their office accountable. Let’s remind Vice President (VP) Kembo Mohadi to give us our overdue national apology on his deplorable violent actions against his ex-wife Tambudzai Mohadi on 31 March.

On 31 March 2019, VP Mohadi is alleged to have poked his ex-wife with an iron bar, threatened to shoot her and attacked her house with an axe. All this happened in the full view of 25police officers who watched helplessly. The actions by the Vice President, and the police’s reaction during the altercation tells many stories in one, albeit all concluding that 39years after independence, women are not safe in Zimbabwe. For this day, the one story to think about is the reality that the violent actions by VP Mohadu to Senator TambudzaI Mohadi are a tip of an iceberg to a wider problem of how violence is normalized within the realms of power and law enforcement. On this fateful day, statements by the Zimbabwe Mail indicate that VP Mohadi claimed to be higher than the law itself. For the police, after witnessing the incident, and counting the number of weapons the VP wielded and was determined to use, still no report of investigations have been made.

The abuse of the law and use of law enforcement agents in committing acts of violence against an unarmed woman by those who are supposed to be protecting victims and survivors is deplorable. Such acts erase gains made in the post independent Zimbabwe of criminalizing violence against women. Surely decades of effort by women’s rights groups cannot be put into jeopardy by unrestraint acts by the VP. That send very wrong signals to would be offenders of gender based violence. VP Kembo Mohadi must apologize to the women and citizens of Zimbabwe for his acts that undermine the oath of his office and the laws of the country.

Zimbabwe has over the years made significant progress in passing laws and ratifying regional and international instruments aimed at criminalizing and mitigating different sorts of discriminatory and degrading practices to women. In 2007, the country passed into law, the Domestic Violence Act. It has also ratified the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women, and the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). The Executive arm of government is one of the institutions that have a responsibility to play an oversight role on the implementation of national law and policy. The acts of the Vice President are contrary to expectations of his office hence the need for him to set the record straight by publicly apologizing to the nation.

Gender based violence remains a major area of concern for the country. Reported incidences of gender based violence continue to soar. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) reports that in Zimbabwe one in every 3 women have experienced physical violence and that in many instances for once married women the violence is perpetrated by their spouse or former ‘husbands’. The increases are recorded despite the increased awareness and calls to end violence against women and promote women’s rights to security of persons among other freedoms. The UN Resident Coordinator for Zimbabwe in 2017 raised concerns that while it remains contested that increases in cases of gender based violence could be attributed to increased awareness and therefore reporting violations, those rates are still alarming as even one single case is unjustifiable.

Gender based violence or specifically violence against women is attributable to patriarchal attitudes that undermine the person-hood of women. The occurrence of the violence at the highest level of authority, and without condemnation from the state organs is problematic. Women fought the war to guarantee the nation freedom and safety. Unless that is attained, the goals of the liberation struggle are betrayed.

Source: Institute for Young Women Development (IYWD)