This I Believe

Benhilda - Harare, Zimbabwe
Entered on July 11, 2007

No acceptable violence

I believe that violence cannot be completely stemmed in one arena if it is allowed to flourish in another. That is why the Domestic Violence Act, which came into effect in Zimbabwe in March 2007, will end up being little more than ‘high sounding nonsense’ passed so that President Robert Mugabe can get the women’s vote in the March 2008 elections.

The Act can not be effective if unspeakable acts of political violence are committed regularly and with impunity every time President Robert Mugabe feels threatened by any one group and if the groups not targeted at that time remain unconcerned until the violence comes full circle to them. Thus between 2000 and 2005, the white farmers and their workers fought a lone battle when their land was brutally snatched away from them because President Mugabe was nervous about their apparent support for the newly formed opposition Movement for Democratic Change. Journalists, trade unionists, civic society leaders, businessmen and the MDC equally stood alone when attacked with ferocity by police for allegedly working to effect regime change. How then can a policeman who bashes opposition supporters as a sport, go to his home and treat his womenfolk with respect? Can he take the Act seriously? The Act empowers the police to arrest without a warrant, anyone threatening or committing acts of domestic violence.

Zimbabwean women celebrated International Women’s Day on 18 March a week later than usual and President Mugabe, the special guest speaker, talked about bringing domestic violence down by 60% with the new Domestic Violence Act. The representatives of the women’s groups ululated and hugged themselves with glee as he talked. But they kept mum when in the same breath, he castigated the MDC whom he had allowed the police to attack on 11 March because they decided to partake in a prayer meeting which he believed would result in anti-Mugabe sentiments.

As he talked, some women and several men were in hospital nursing wounds inflicted by the polic, images of which were broadcast worldwide. One woman had an ear nearly torn out while another, a 64-year old grandmother, had broken ribs–the result of being jumped on like a trampolene–and a broken arm and leg–the result of being pushed out of a police truck on arrival at the bail hearing when she informed them she was unable to jump off the vehicle. A number of men could not walk unassisted. One male opposition supporter was shot dead by the police and no convictions were ever made. There was no word of condemnation from the women over this act of violence as there had not been over other previous acts of violence.

But the women could demonstrate in the streets over a statement, and not an act of violence,by an opposition MDC MP that a man’s superiority in the home was divinely ordained and thus his actions could not be questioned.