COLUMN: MARY REVESAI
Sexist element in Ncube's harassment
The matter also highlights Zanu PF’s contemptuous and discriminatory attitude towards women through the trivialization of the indispensable contribution of Ncube’s mother to his parentage.
In most progressive countries, government ministries, departments and agencies exist to promote, and interpret policies and laws. Their function is to facilitate understanding of regulations and procedures so that citizens can comply with them.
Ncube’s case shows however that the main aim of the regime in Harare in introducing retrogressive legislation is to unjustly trap certain targeted people and then declare triumphantly, “I got you!”
In other words, this regime revels in creating scenarios that make it impossible to comply with its harsh laws so that it can achieve its political goals.
It is a type of pettiness that should never be associated with governments but that is exactly what the Mugabe regime is doing in its clumsy attempt to use the issue of Ncube’s parentage as a reason to justify stripping him of his Zimbabwean citizenship.
The real aim is to eventually act against his two publications, The Zimbabwe Independent and The Standard in line with the provisions of the archaic Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) which restricts ownership of newspapers to Zimbabweans. The original motive behind this law was to ban foreigners from investing funds in Zimbabwean media products, thus restricting media diversity.
As if this totalitarian approach was not bad enough, the regime is displaying its paranoia in the manner it is interpreting its illogical and self-serving laws. Ncube is a man of 45 years who has lived all his life in the land of his birth. Many countries in the world use the principle of jus soli – which literally means citizenship by place of birth. Citizenship is also more commonly conferred on the basis of jus sanguinis – by blood.
In the United States,
for example, a child born of an American parent living abroad automatically
becomes an American as long as one citizen parent has been physically
present in the country before the child’s birth. Ncube has explained
that his father lived in Zimbabwe before the media entrepreneur was
born and holds Zimbabwean registration documents. Moreover, both his
parents have lived in Zimbabwe for all Ncube’s life.
But more importantly, Ncube’s mother is a Zimbabwean whose offsprings have every right to enjoy citizenship through their descent by blood from her. By harassing Ncube, the government, which misses no opportunity to boast about its commitment to gender equality, is showing its true colours by implying that Ncube’s mother does not figure in the equation.
Currently, a lot of noise is being made about the Domestic Violence Bill, behind which the government has thrown its weight. While this is a useful law if it can be enforced, there is no doubt that the regime has been so keen to support it only as a way to win the women’s vote, particularly in the rural areas. Its hypocrisy on the matter is however evident from its continuing condonation of violence against women.
Mugabe was reported recently to have vetoed the prosecution of George Charamba, the permanent secretary for information and publicity, after he had assaulted his wife so brutally that she needed intensive care attention when she was hospitalised. Police were ordered to lay off the case because Charamba’s prosecution would “embarrass the president.”
This was not he first time Mugabe’s ego had been considered to be more important than this woman’s life. Mugabe had bailed Charamba out before in similar circumstances. The same double standards have been shown by the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and Gender which, despite spearheading the adoption of the Domestic Violence Bill, has maintained a thunderous silence on political and state -sponsored violence.
The ministry, headed by Oppah Muchinguri, did not utter a single word of protest when Lucia Matibenga of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions was brutalised by the police along with male colleagues. Similarly, women’s organisations which staged demonstrations against MDC legislator Timothy Mubawu for opposing the Domestic Violence Bill were tongue-tied on Matibenga’s torture. Zanu PF expediency means that outrage would only have been expressed if Matibenga had been assaulted by her husband, especially if he was an opposition activist considered to be an enemy of the state. A case in point is the hullabaloo the ruling party caused over the assault last year on Trudy Stevenson by thugs who are still at large. Zanu PF made a lot of noise about this not out of principle but only because it hoped to make mileage out of the incident by discrediting the opposition.
The persecution of Ncube further highlights how laws and national values are interpreted and applied selectively in Zimbabwe. Mugabe’s sister, Sabina, is known to have sons who were fathered by a Mozambican man. One of these sons, Patrick Zhuwawo, serves in the government as deputy minister of science and technology. He obviously is enjoying the benefits of his heritage as the son of a Zimbabwean mother. Why can Trevor Ncube not be allowed to do the same? Is his mother any less of a Zimbabwean because she is not the president’s sister?
That the Mugabe regime has ulterior motives is underscored by its determination to ignore self-evident facts and invoke the law to require Ncube to renounce a status he has never legally held.
It is as though having a father from a neighbouring African country is a heinous crime for which the newspaper owner must pay by being rendered stateless. If hairs must be split, then Ncube is at least half-Zimbabwean. On many occasions, government officials have pontificated on the need to relax visa requirements to allow Africans to travel freely from one country to another.
But who is an African and who is a Zimbabwean if Trevor Ncube, born and bred in Zimbabwe, can accused of being inherently alien?
The government-appointed Media and Information Commission has been at pains to explain that there are no ulterior motives in the government’s vendetta against the newspaper publisher. It has stressed that it has no intention to close down Ncube’s publications. It will be remembered the MIC gave similar assurances while laying the groundwork for banning the Tribune and The Weekly Times.
Mary Revesai is a New Zimbabwe.com columnist and writes from Harare. Her column will appear here every Tuesday
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