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Killings raise gender violence concerns in Zimbabwe – Mail and Guardian

When Zimbabwe’s then vice-president, Kembo Mohadi, allegedly beat his estranged wife in 2019 and threatened her with an axe, the case brought to the public eye the issue of gender violence in a country where researchers say domestic abuse remains underreported.

Earlier in that year, a woman was not as lucky as Mohadi’s wife, who lived to narrate her ordeal after a close shave with her reportedly axe-wielding husband. 

The woman in Silobela, in the Midlands, about 280km from the capital city Harare, was struck to death with an axe as she slept by her husband who accused her of taking contraception pills without his knowledge.

For gender rights activists, the Mohadi case was time for the country to reckon with violence against women, not just on the domestic front but also in politics, where women have been targets of brutal assaults be it in intraparty jockeying for positions or national elections.

Some researchers have blamed violence against women as one of former president Robert Mugabe’s lasting legacies. He is widely blamed for presiding over the country’s political and economic decline, said by researchers to have provided tinder for gender-based violence.

 “The 2008 election is one of many horrific episodes in Zimbabwe’s history in which  hundreds  of women — female supporters, sympathisers and relatives of MDC members were subjected to rape, for ‘voting wrongly’,” reported Aids-Free World, an international advocacy organisation.

Five years after Mugabe’s ouster, and with the country’s economic hardships showing no signs of letting up, rights activists and mental health professionals are concerned about what they see as the parallel escalation of gender-based violence.

In recent months, the country has recorded the murders of young women at the hands of their estranged lovers, with mental health researchers and the police trying to piece together the triggers of what have become regular femicide incidents.

In a widely circulated video last week, a man films himself as he shoots and kills his estranged 22-year-old girlfriend.

The incident reportedly happened in Bulawayo.

According to communication from the perpetrator that he sent alongside the murder footage, he was bitter that his girlfriend had decided to end their relationship.

In July, a 29-year-old man in Harare shot his former girlfriend in the head after she broke off the relationship after a series of physical abuse complaints by the murder victim.

Last week, a 31-year-old man fatally assaulted his under age “wife” aged 15, accusing her of “infidelity”. 

Gender rights activists pointing to the economic crisis as fuelling the bane of child marriages.

Firearms have been used in some of the most brutal gender violence cases, raising questions not just about the safety of women in abusive relationships, but also how the proliferation of both licenced and unlicensed firearms are being turned into deadly instruments to perpetrate gender based violence.

These accounts continue against the backdrop of the country’s efforts to address gender violence, with Zimbabwe being awarded the United Nations Spotlight Initiative Country Programme last month.

The programme seeks to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls.

Lobbyists say although the legal framework exists to protect women, more needs to be done to effectively stem persisting gender-based violence cases.

“The legal and justice system needs to intensify efforts to address reporting mechanisms, arrests and subsequent investigations and prosecution of GBV cases,” said Sitabile Dewa, executive director of the Women’s Academy for Leadership and Political Excellence.

 “There are loopholes in the legal system that perpetrators use to evade arrest and prosecution,” Dewa said, as women reportedly withdraw cases against their abusive partners, only for the abuse to continue.

Last year, the government announced in its Zimbabwe National Drug Master Plan, that because of the tough economic atmosphere, the country was facing an increase in cases of depression, stress and mental health challenges.

This in turn, Dewa says, has cascaded to domestic tensions.

The health ministry estimates that up to 1.3 million people have mental health problems, citing economic hardships as one of the major triggers.

Economic indicators show that Zimbabwe has witnessed worsening living standards after the ouster of Mugabe from office in November 2017, and the toll on traditional breadwinners is being felt by dependents on the receiving end of gender violence.

Inflation has soared in recent months, with, for example, civil servants agitating for salary adjustments alongside a burgeoning informal employment sector.

The World Bank has estimated that inflation will average 213% this year, “and remain in triple digits in 2023”.

“I believe the major drivers of GBV are socio-economical,” said Herbert Zirima, a behavioural science professor at the Great Zimbabwe University.

 “Generally, men in our communities are economically more empowered than women. Some men then take advantage of that economic strength to physically and psychologically abuse women,” he said. 

As the authorities struggle to tame the economic downturn, the country finds itself facing a raft of social aberrations, in what Zirima says had led to “a propagation of harmful practices”.

“Socialisation sometimes plays a part. Some men have been socialised to believe that the best way to resolve conflict is to use force,” he said.

Even though the government is setting up One Stop Centres across the country as part of efforts to provide protection and counselling services to women, officials acknowledge the economic hardships are slowing efforts to combat gender-based violence.

“We have seen a sharp increase in gender based violence against women especially since the onset of Covid-19 which affected people’s incomes,” said Vaida Mashangwa, a senior director in the ministry of women’s affairs.

“But we are also seeing an increase in women killing their partners over issues such as infidelity which is beyond the economic pressure seen as one of the major drivers of gender based violence,” Mashangwa said.

In a June statement, national police spokesperson Paul Nyathi raised concerns about what he said was a rise in murder cases “arising out of lover’s differences”. 

According to the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency, up to 40% of women aged 15 to 19 have been subjected to physical and sexual violence at the hands of their intimate partners in the past 12 months.

In an October dispatch, Afrobarometer said Zimbabweans considered gender-based violence as the most important women’s rights issue ahead of women in influential positions in government and access to education for women.

But the apparent increase in GBV cases could be because more women are coming forward to report being abused by their intimate partners, Mashangwa said. “Government has set up helplines to encourage women to report their cases without fear of repercussions from their abusers.” 

As the country heads towards the 2023 polls amid extreme economic hardships, violence against women remains on the radar, stalling the little gains made towards addressing gender-based violence.

Last month, women were stripped naked and beaten in Matobo district just outside Bulawayo during a Citizens Coalition for Change campaign by suspected ruling Zanu-PF supporters despite numerous calls for violence free elections.
United Nations Women has warned that “violence against women and girls remain prevalent in Zimbabwe”, noting that this has slowed efforts to achieve sustainable development goal five which seeks gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Mail & Guardian.

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Chisora to use £2m Fury pay-day to keep kids in private school and away from his old dangerous neighbourhood – The Zimbabwe Mail

LONDON: DEREK CHISORA will use his £2million Tyson Fury windfall to keep his daughters in private school and away from his old dangerous neighbourhood.

The 38-year-old heavyweight moved to North London from Zimbabwe aged 16 and changed his life around at the same Finchley ABC gym that later moulded Anthony Joshua into an Olympic legend.

The Brexit-supporting Boris Johnson fan now lives on leafy Hampstead Heath and dines in the capital’s favourite restaurants – after giving up alcohol and the party-boy lifestyle five years ago.

But his most important extravagance is putting Angelina and Harare through top schools and he is well aware of the tragic story of Danny Williams – who is still risking his life in dangerous bouts aged 49 – to keep his girls in education.

He said: “I am here because I like the nice things in life.

“Sometimes I have to drive through my old neighbourhood and I think, f**k that, I don’t want to come back to this s***hole.

“That keeps me hungry and motivated. It’s always financial because you never really make enough money to survive.

“The economy goes up and down, some investments go bad, you have to appreciate it.

“Kids are in private school and that’s expensive. You get used to the lifestyle, which is great.

“Every parent wants to put their kids through private schools.

“Some parents manage to do it at the start but, when things get difficult, they have to take them out and put them in a state school.

“Every parent wants to give their kids the best and the best start in life.”

The 18st hulk famously scoots around London in a tiny and cost-cutting SmartCar while most his colleagues brag and post online their Lamborghinis and Ferraris.

Having survived a childhood scare with measles and a gun attack when he first arrived in England as a wayward teen, Del Boy has learned to enjoy experiences more than material things and he certainly doesn’t bother showing them off.

“Everyone likes nice stuff,” he said. “Most people get money and go and buy flashy cars or watches.

“But other people just like to enjoy life and prefer holidays and experiences more than the most expensive things.

“I just enjoy the things that I like. I drive my SmartCar and enjoy keeping the girls happy.

“I treat myself everyday and if I want a nice watch or car then I buy it.

“I don’t deprive myself of anything and I don’t save up for stuff.”

Fury has already beaten Chisora twice, in 2011 and 2014, and some concerned fans have been calling for the African to retire ever since he reached his 30s and started suffering the bulk of his 12 losses.

But the evergreen brawler insists Britain is too hung up on defeats and forcing fighters into retirement prematurely.

“It’s okay if you lose,” he said.

“It’s okay if you go through a divorce and you go back again.

“There’s nothing greater in life than living. It’s the best thing ever.

“For us, to have gone through all the preparation and you think you have trained hard enough, and you meet somebody who has trained hard enough as well and he wins, yes, you’re going to be upset, but you come out again and move on.

“People have an agenda of getting upset; ‘Why did he do this, why did he do that?’

“No, don’t get upset, just enjoy it.”


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Scholarships help students change Africa – UM News

Key Points:

  • Two-thirds of the students at Africa University receive financial aid or scholarships, according toJim Salley, president and CEO of Africa University (Tennessee) Inc.
  • Africa University’s 30th anniversary marked the beginning of the African endowment for scholarships. The original goal of $100,000 was surpassed. Salley called that achievement “the ultimate empowerment story.”
  • An endowed scholarship fund requires a minimum gift of $10,000, and a fully funded endowment is $130,000. 

Berthia Mugwagwa, 20, knew exactly which university she wanted to attend to make her dream of running a large farm come true.

“Africa University has the best agricultural university in Africa,” she said. “I told my mom it was my only option.” Mugwagwa is enrolled in the College of Health, Agriculture and Natural Sciences.

Family finances were difficult. Her father is disabled, so one of his younger brothers agreed to pay her school fees.

In an interview during the recent celebration of United Methodist-related Africa University’s 30th anniversary, Mugwagwa tearfully said her uncle died at his job in South Africa just a few days before.

“I was crying. I thought I would have to drop out,” she said. School officials assured her they would find someone to sponsor her with a scholarship.

“I am so grateful,” she said. “My school fees are a lot, and my mom would not be able to pay.”

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Africa University provides financial aid or scholarships to two-thirds of the students, said Jim Salley, president and chief executive officer of Africa University (Tennessee) Inc., one of three entities that run Africa University in Zimbabwe. He is also associate vice chancellor for institutional advancement.

A primary objective of Africa University is to educate leaders for the continent, Salley said.

“Of the more than 11,000 alumni, more than 90 percent are in leadership roles on the continent of Africa,” he added. Alumni come from 32 countries.

After the Sunday worship service on Oct. 23, Mugwagwa and a group of scholarship recipients spoke to visitors and donors from the U.S. who came to celebrate the milestone for the university in Mutare, Zimbabwe. 

One donor, the Rev. Jennifer Jue, is pastor of Brookside and Trinity United Methodist churches in Jackson, Michigan. She brought another $10,000 donation for an endowed scholarship she established in 2007 for a female theology student.

“The students I talked to mentioned the importance, impact and uniqueness of Africa University to bring together persons from different countries throughout Africa,” Jue said.

She was inspired to set up an endowed scholarship fund after she heard the Rev. Beauty Maenzanise, then dean of Theology at Africa University, give a presentation on the school.

“I wanted to begin an endowed scholarship at Africa University because I believe that Africa University provides quality higher education that equips and empowers leaders of many different countries of Africa,” Jue said. “Ethical leaders have the potential to bring peace and justice to their countries, government and institutions.”

The Rev. Jennifer Jue (right) of the Michigan Conference talks with scholarship recipients at Africa University in October. Jue said the students talked about the unique way the university brings together people from different countries throughout Africa. Jue has started an endowed scholarship for a female student in the theology department. Photo by Kathy L. Gilbert. 

The Rev. Jennifer Jue (right) of the Michigan Conference talks with scholarship recipients at Africa University in October. Jue said the students talked about the unique way the university brings together people from different countries throughout Africa. Jue has started an endowed scholarship for a female student in the theology department. Photo by Kathy L. Gilbert, UM News.

An endowed scholarship fund requires a minimum gift of $10,000, and a fully funded endowment is $130,000. 

“The understanding is that the gift amount is never touched,” said Andra Stevens, director of communications and creative services for the Africa University Development Office. The initial gift accrues interest, and awards are made from earned interest income after three years. School fees are $5,765 annually for a year of study.

Another scholarship recipient, Belinda Numbi, 22, is in her senior year at AU. Enrolled in the College of Business, Peace, Leadership and Governance, she is studying in the department of business sciences.

“I am the firstborn of eight children,” she said. “I want to run a company or a business in order to support my siblings. I have a lot of responsibilities.”

Numbi added, “I have never met my sponsor. I would be so grateful to say ‘thank you.’ I pray for them. May God bless them.”

Africa University students visit following worship at the Kwang Lim Chapel. Africa University’s 28th graduating class included 712 graduates from 18 African countries. Of the more than 11,000 alumni since the first graduating class in 1994, more than 90 percent are in leadership roles on the continent of Africa, said Jim Salley, president and chief executive officer of Africa University (Tennessee) Inc. Photo by Kathy L. Gilbert, UM News. 

Africa University students visit following worship at the Kwang Lim Chapel. Africa University’s 28th graduating class included 712 graduates from 18 African countries. Of the more than 11,000 alumni since the first graduating class in 1994, more than 90 percent are in leadership roles on the continent of Africa, said Jim Salley, president and chief executive officer of Africa University (Tennessee) Inc. Photo by Kathy L. Gilbert, UM News.

During the anniversary celebration, Claflin University president Dwaun Warmack and his family donated $10,000 for an endowed scholarship fund. Located in Orangeburg, South Carolina, Claflin University is one of the 11 historically Black schools and colleges in the U.S related to The United Methodist Church.

The 80-plus visitors that were part of a charter group from the U.S. took up a special collection during their time in Africa. They gave $6,300 in direct scholarship aid in honor of the Africa University Development Office. 

Another $3 million has been given to endow scholarships as part of the U.S.-based endowment’s celebration. 

The 30th anniversary also marked the beginning of the African endowment for scholarships, Salley said. The original goal was to raise $100,000.

“We surpassed that goal,” Salley said. “It is a dream come true.”

Several gifts came from Zimbabwe businesses, including $25,000 from CIMAS Medical Aid Society, the university’s health insurance services partner, designated for laboratory equipment.

Other Zimbabwe businesses and many individual gifts from alumni, faculty and staff donated to support the Africa-based scholarship endowment effort.

Salley called the African-based endowment “the ultimate empowerment story.”

Gilbert is a freelance writer in Nashville, Tennessee.

News media contact: Julie Dwyer, news editor, [email protected] or 615-742-5469. To read more United Methodist News, subscribe to Free Daily or Weekly Digests.

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Review: Mugabe’s Legacy by David B Moore – African Business

Robert Gabriel Mugabe’s place in history is complicated. Vilified and jailed by Ian Smith’s white-minority rogue government of Rhodesia, he became an icon for African nationalists for spearheading the armed struggle that brought about majority rule for Zimbabwe.

As prime minister and then president, he received early praise for his apparent magnanimity towards his defeated white opponents during the 1980 post-election period, and for education reforms in his early tenure.

But by the time he was removed in an army coup in 2017 after 37 years in power, Mugabe’s legacy was seriously tarnished. His rule had become despotic, with political opponents jailed, tortured and murdered, and he was castigated for permissive attitude towards grand corruption within his government.

His rule saw appalling excesses such as the Matabeleland genocide, known locally as Gukurahundi, which scholars believe accounted for at least 20,000 Ndebele deaths. There was adventurism in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Land invasions and widespread political violence in Zimbabwe deepened the country’s isolation and wrecked its economy, ensuring that few Zimbabweans rued his sudden fall from power.

In Mugabe’s Legacy: Coups, Conspiracies and the Conceits of Power, David Moore, who recently retired as professor of development studies at the University of Johannesburg, suggests that Mugabe’s early life in the Zimbabwean liberation movement offers vital keys to understanding his later rule.

Born in rural Mashonaland, the clever young schoolteacher – regarded by his own mother as something of an unlovable oddball – was just one of many leaders awakening to a life of burning injustice in colonial and apartheid Southern Africa.

The initial liberation era was riven by factionalism – sometimes determined by political philosophies, sometimes by tribal affiliations. To reach the top, Mugabe would have to impose his will on allies and enemies alike. His subsequent aggressive rise through the hierarchy of the Zimbabwe African National Union (Zanu) showed the determination, as well as the ruthless Machiavellian streak, that would dominate the remainder of his career.

From the mid-1970s his domineering personality and willingness to use violence to purge young, radical challengers allowed Mugabe to lead the movement through the complexities of the Cold War and regional, ideological, generational, inter- and intra-party tensions. The lessons learned by Mugabe throughout his tough and brutal climb to the top stayed with him for the entirety of his political career, Moore shows.

Hero myth

As the war accelerated in ferocity towards the end of the 1970s, when the Rhodesian regime faced sustained military pressure and growing international isolation, Mugabe increasingly came to see himself as inseparable from the movement.

As one highly-critical, prominent but apolitical Zimbabwean told me, Mugabe, surrounded by sycophants, began to believe in the hero myth that had been built of himself as the “liberation fighter president”. Mugabe became convinced that Zanu was the only political party that could rule Zimbabwe – and that he was the only man to lead that party in the post-independence era.

As leader of the country – even while projecting himself internationally as an Anglophile lover of cricket with a predilection for tailored Saville Row suits – Mugabe soon began to turn the ferocity of his vision inwards. Political disputes with the Ndebele-dominated Zimbabwe African Patriotic Union and its charismatic leader Joshua Nkomo sparked the mass violence of the terrifying Gukurahundi campaign, to which the world largely turned a blind eye.

Land seizures

Indeed, it was not until the 1990s that Mugabe’s governance began to be seriously scrutinised by much of the international community. As the economy slumped and he came under pressure from radical opponents to reshape the nature of Zimbabwe’s white-dominated farming sector, Mugabe unleashed the power of the so-called “war veterans” movement, which began seizing and occupying white-owned farms, sometimes violently. It is in detailing the legacy of this disastrous move that Moore comes into his own.

Drawing on his own wealth of research into the land seizures, including his 2005 contribution to Legacies of Power: Leadership Change and Former Presidents in Africa, he shows how Zimbabwe’s economy nose-dived.

“By 2004 the ‘fast track’ land reform process arising from the ZANU (PF)’s 2000 referendum loss and close election was moving towards a new agricultural mode.

“Over 1,500 white-owned large-scale commercial farms were now 127,192 households on A1 plots with use rights and grazing land, 7,260 ‘capitalists’ with leasehold and a ‘proposed option to buy’, and a few hundred big chiefs gaining most news coverage.

“Nearly 250,000 people waited for this land while more than four million starved. Productive and commercial farmers decreased from 4,500 in 2000 to under 500 in 2004.”

Moore tells us that Zimbabwe’s wheat production fell to 170,000 tons a year in 2004, from the former 300,000 tons average. The land-reform programme presaged a wider collapse of confidence in Mugabe’s leadership and in the economic direction of his government, which had become marred by corruption and rent-seeking.

Moore quotes Rob Davies, the former South African minister of trade and industry, reporting that Zimbabwean income per head fell by 2011 to 53% of the 1996 level. If growth had remained at the 1996 rate, income would have been 97% higher.

In 1980 when Zimbabwe achieved independence, the local currency, the Zimbabwe dollar, was worth twice that of the US dollar: and Moore observes that “if Zimbabwean people accepted that scale for weighing the merits of past and present then by 2005, life was 56,000 times worse than in 1980.”

Critical voices silenced

In truth, Mugabe’s presidency never recovered from the fiasco of the land reform programme. Geopolitically isolated and placed under sanctions by the US and Europe, Mugabe increasingly turned on his political opponents and allowed his allies to dominate what remained of the shrinking economy. With critical voices silenced and no space for dissenting political views, it was ultimately the military, wielded by senior allies in Zanu, that forced him from the throne.

In the continuing rule of that institution, which is struggling to return Zimbabwe to growth, continues to be shunned by Western powers and refuses to liberalise the political space, Moore shows that Mugabe’s true legacy lives on.

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