By Netsai Marova
THE removal of Robert Mugabe as President in November 2017 through a military coup which ushered in the so called “second Republic” gave the Zimbabwean populace false hope on national transformation and democratic developmental of the state.
Mugabe ranks as one of the most brutal and evil dictators in the history of dictatorial states due to his massacre of thousands of civilians through brutal post-independence episodes such as Gukurahundi, Operation Murambatsvina and election violence visited upon innocent citizens from 2000 until his ouster in 2017.
His overthrow gave the world and the people of Zimbabwe hope for transformation into a new era that would modernise and restore the country into its former status as the Jewel and breadbasket of southern Africa.
Everyone had long awaited the rescue of the people of Zimbabwe from the abuse by the late dictator’s regime and see the upholding of women’s rights in political participation and participatory development in the nation.
With the introduction of 60 parliamentary seats reserved for women, as women, we hoped the country was ready to have the female voice in decision making.
However, reality has proven that proponents of that law only wanted women on their own terms since women are not allowed to voice on their concerns without fear.
Covid-19 lockdown restrictions came in with yet another burden for women.
In a country with about 90% unemployment rate and an economy with a volatile currency, the only art of survival known by many is vending, and a few other informal jobs.
These have been shut down by the regime, which has virtually made every citizen to look up to the government to provide grants and relief. And indeed, the ministry of finance received aid from across the globe to relieve ailing citizens.
As it turned out, authorities had other sinister thoughts. They wanted the money to themselves alone.
Left with no option, women had to take to the streets to demand of the release of aid to suffering citizens. Not just women alone, but the public in general and this has led to the wanton arrests by the regime.
The response from the government was brutal and women become the major target of the regime together with other human rights defenders.
The famous story of the MDC Alliance Trio is an example of the crackdown on women by the regime in Harare.
The young ladies were brutalised, humiliated and dehumanised. After that ordeal, they were jailed and spent months in prison. They had to attend to court on their death beds and bed ridden.
All this as a punishment for speaking out and exercising their constitutional rights as law abiding citizens of Zimbabwe.
The political space for women is fast shrinking in Zimbabwe and there is also a continual crackdown on human rights defenders and other civic society actors.
Not only is the MDC Alliance trio under attack from the regime. The MDC Alliance national spokesperson, Advocate Fadzai Mahere, a lawyer of note is in and out of police cells, accused of breaking laws that do not exist.
On the other hand, female student’s leaders under the banner of ZINASU are also being harassed, intimidated and arrested for demanding the promised affordable tuition fees in tertiary institutions by the government.
The Mnangagwa administration is sceptical of women and is using any resources at its disposal to silence female voices in the country.
Hundreds of people attended the sentencing of Makomborero’s Haruzivishe, a youth leader of note who was convicted of “whistling and sitting down”, but of all the attendees, the law enforcement agents targeted Vongai Tome, harassed, arrested and denied bail twice by the lower courts in Zimbabwe.
Arrested for giving solidarity to Makomborero who was convicted on dubious, politically motivated charges and prior to which again Joana Mamombe and Cecilia Chimbiri are in jail today accused of reading a speech.
It should be noted that there were other people on this particular day who were never arrested, thus cementing the notion that the prosecution of Chimbiri and Mamombe is clearly a case of targeted persecution.
The idea is clearly to silence women and demotivate their participation in political processes in the long run and most importantly in the coming 2023 watershed elections.
Netsai Marova is Gender Activist and a youth leader in the MDC Alliance.