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Men make a mockery of women in Zimbabwe


Ray Mwareya is a fellow of PEN America “Artists at Risk Connection”, writer and receiver of the UN Correspondents Association Media Prize 2016. Twitter @rmwareya

Grace Mugabe is held up as a symbol of the inability of Zimbabwean women to govern a country, unleashing a “mischievous and retrogressive” attitude. This sees many women undermined and ridiculed in the media and security force members reportedly raping women and boasting about it. Isn’t it time Zimbabwe’s men stopped looking the other way?

In the wild scenes of joy amid the 2017 coup that ousted Robert Mugabe as Zimbabwe’s president, a reckless euphoria of ridiculing the countrys women deepened. It was glamorous to insult women. Today, as security forces reportedly rape women with impunity and boast of it, as Zimbabwean men we ought to examine our own shame and consciences.

We must recall, in the grip of the 2017 coup, vile, sexist jokes flourished like this: Mugabe’s downfall is a lesson to men that never trust your wife. Political power is not sexually transmitted– foul jokes along these lines flourished on Zimbabwe’s WhatsApp and Facebook chatrooms.

This woman Grace corrupted our good president, Mugabe,” boomed one Joseph Chinotimba, a charismatic lawmaker on Zimbabwes state radio. “She is the chief loose woman. Men never allow your women to interfere in your office work and business deals.”

One Oppah Muchinguri, a minister, the most senior woman in Zimbabwe’s government, echoed this bizarre trend of disturbing attacks on fellow women’s abilities when according to Bulawayo24 news agency, she said “(President Mugabe) by allowing his wife to have an active role in politics plotted his own downfall”.

National Mood

Much of this popular bashing of women’s dignity resonated with the current public mood in Zimbabwe because of the perceived actions of the unelected Grace Mugabe, the 53-year-old wife of the former president, Robert Mugabe.

Grace Mugabe, an Imelda Marcos sort-of figure, had grabbed executive authority from her frail 94-year-old husband by the backdoor, court papers deposited at the Zimbabwe High Court during the feverish close of the coup claimed. Grace, it was said, was sacking and elevating cabinet ministers at the stroke of her eyelashes.

On the pages of Zimbabwe’s media, in the aftermath of tumultuous coup events, worrying stories began to emerge. “Soldiers demand free sex as reward for ousting Mugabe” ran a report authored by Zimbabwe’s National Aids Council. We looked aside. It was as if Zimbabwe’s women were merely sex fantasy objects existing to satisfy male victors of a coup.

This author, it must be said, does not in any way seek to sanitise the legacy of Grace Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s former first lady. Her wholesale eviction of women, children and the elderly in Zimbabwe’s prime farming belts to expand her fancy wildlife farms were cruel and callous. By any stretch of imagination, she is not a symbol of Zimbabwe’s upliftment of women.

But to lampoon Grace Mugabe and hold her up as a symbol of the inability of Zimbabwean women to govern a country is mischievous and retrogressive. Ms Mugabes tainted profile does not represent Zimbabwe’s women (who now live under the threat of militia beatings and forced sex). Zimbabwe as a nation is endowed with women of distinction and astonishing ability. By way of example, Joyce Mujuru, a moderate former vice president of Zimbabwes ruling party, who was sacked on a flurry of male egoistic orders, is a woman of repute.

So, whirling mainstream Zimbabwe social jokes suggesting the army will never salute a woman president, are disgraceful. Such male – jingoistic jokes in effect, appear to vilify Zimbabwe’s women as spoilers, and unfit for high office.

Today, amid Zimbabwes crudest security clampdown, these casual, seemingly harmless jokes, have taken a deadly rout on Zimbabwe womens bodies. DM


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