Saturday, March 28, 2009

Zimbabwe News Update: Women Call For Zero Tolerance to Violence

Women call for zero tolerance to violence

By Tendai Hildegarde Manzvanzvike
Courtesy of the Zimbabwe Herald

IT was not coincidental that for a whole week before the official launch of International Women’s Day on March 20 by the Ministry of Women Affairs, this writer continually played Pastor Shirley Caesar’s Grammy award hit song "I remember Mama".

She sings: "Kneeling by her bed side, I can still hear Mama say, ‘The people are depending on you, Shirley, don’t you let them down’."

The whole time this writer was at the City Sports Centre capturing the mood and feeling of this unique and historic event, Shirley Caesar’s song started to make sense.

This writer has been to a number of such events in the past two decades, but this one felt different. Let me however, express my disagreement with many sisters who said women from all walks of life and different political persuasions were coming together to celebrate IWD for the first time.

We have to be very careful about these kinds of perceptions lest we are labelled revisionists of history. Women have a responsibility socialising children, including passing on accurate information.

Women representatives of political parties, women parliamentarians, women in business, agriculture, mining, the civil service, the diplomatic corps, parastatals, local authorities, uniformed forces, health section, civil society, church organisations including the Islamic group Fatima Zahra were there.

Ordinary women also came in their hundreds as well as young girls and boys.

Men were also there in various capacities, with Padare sharing the podium with the women.

Cde Angeline Masuku, Honourable Sekai Holland, Mrs Betty Mutero, Mrs Sarah Kachingwe, Mrs Georgina Gombera, two of the country’s top academics in Dr Hope Sadza (Vice Chancellor of the Women’s University in Africa) and Dr Primrose Kurasha (Vice Chancellor of the Zimbabwe Open University) were all there.

We learnt that Vice President Joice Mujuru and Deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khupe are products of the two universities, with the Vice President already reading for her doctoral degree.

As DPM Khupe said, it was a joyous moment for the women of Zimbabwe.

She reminded everybody that Zimbabwean women constitute 52 percent of the population and contribute 80 percent to GDP.

They are heads of households and caregivers, and they have demonstrated that it is possible to work together. She also asked a poignant question: notwithstanding the statistics, who are we as women?

Shirley Caesar sings that "some Christians play church". However, the women who gathered at the Sports Centre were not playing womanhood, girlhood, motherhood and sisterhood.

They were not playing unity, peace building, national healing, reconciliation, sharing and caring. Neither were they playing games of inclusivity.

At the political leadership level, they demonstrated that they were not being double minded nor confused about women’s roles in shaping the destiny of this country.

The symbolic gestures displayed by VP Mujuru, DPM Khupe and Dr Jackie Mutambara, wife of DPM Arthur Mutambara’s, were indications that as women we should share and care not only about violence perpetrated against us, but in all spheres of life, for we share a common identity — womanhood.

In issues of such magnitude and gravity, you display a spirit of oneness, seriousness, sobriety, commitment and confidence.

They showed that they were ready to take Zimbabwe to higher and better levels, working with men.

Their calls for zero tolerance for violence not only against women and girls, but across the length and breadth of Zimbabwe starting at household levels were not mere words.

They meant it.

Their coming together at such a time like this gave meaning and value to calls for unity, reconciliation and national healing.

Sekai Holland underscored the importance of national healing and said that President Mugabe had made it clear that national healing should be a priority.

Women were also clear that they want Zimbabwe to succeed and prosper through unity and harmony.

They said that in order for Zimbabwe to be successful, peace must begin with the individual and in the home.

Their messages were also loud and clear: No to violence in the home, no to violence at national level, violence retards development, it dehumanises both the victim and the perpetrator, and that collectively, the nation can end violence.

Padare, a male pressure group called for women’s empowerment arguing that they have a numerical advantage over their male counterparts, and they emphasised that when women are empowered, then the nation is empowered.

To the cynics, last Friday’s solidarity march and gathering should not just be seen as a political event where some dismiss them as "kubatana kwemaZambia", for IWD is not a political event.

Not every woman who took part is affiliated to any political party. Politics was a means to an end, used to achieve the desired result.

Fortunately also, this is not the thinking in Government.

To demonstrate how seriously Government views women’s issues, the Short Term Economic Recovery Programme launched on March 19 by President Mugabe has a section focusing on de-marginalisation of women through specific and concrete gender mainstreaming policies and programmes in every sector and facet of Zimbabwean life.

In STERP, programmes that target women and vulnerable groups would receive resource mobilisation priorities, given the special and decisive role of women in community development.

However, as this writer listened to the speeches and comments, she realised that people spoke about different forms of violence, with some putting emphasis on political violence while others targeted violence against women and girls across board.

Maybe it was correct to have both perspectives, although there is need to have a wider scope of what violence means.

If we confine it to political violence then it is a job half done, for there are many forms of violence perpetrated against women and vulnerable members of society.

There was also one constituency that was conspicuous by its absence — women and girls children living with disabilities. People living with HIV and Aids are now well organised, but their constituency was missing as group.

Also, a people without a history are gullible to various belief systems, some of which are harmful, and incompatible with our social norms and values.

Women should use occasions such as IWD to network even with women at grassroots levels. They should be given the opportunity to express their sentiments, in their "grassroots" way. It is not an "us" and "them" event.

Agreed, we need sponsorship, but let it not be sponsorship that kills the essence and value of Zimbabwean womanhood.

Mature, experienced and knowledgeable women should also take this opportunity to engage with the young women and pass on precious titbits.

In fact any occasion where women gather should be used to bridge the gap between classes.

When Sekai Holland made reference to some of the mothers of the women’s movement, instead of hearing thunderous applause from the bays, there was silence.

The same, when Ms Sarah Kachingwe was introduced as the first black woman to obtain a degree from the College of Rhodesia and Nyasaland.

Some women also thought that Dr Olivia Muchena was revealing "embarrassing" information when she introduced Vice President Joice Mujuru.

It was easy to note that many women do not actually know her track record.


Because as women we do not take time to know and appreciate each other, and neither do we know our past with the exception of narratives written and recorded by Westerners.

These are challenges for women are in the forefront of women’s issues about their methods of sharing and caring about the rest of women’s issues.

The documentation of our narratives is an area that should receive immediate attention from the Ministry of Women Affairs, women academics and other stakeholders. Let us use whatever resources we have to do this, and look for funding to properly record them later.

I also pursue an issue very close to my heart, that of Mbuya Nehanda.

When we are at such gatherings, not paying tribute to this gallant daughter of the soil is unfortunate.

Nehanda is not a Zanu-PF figurehead, and neither does she just belong in the realm of spirit mediums and religion. Her name should not also be confined to street names and buildings.

As much as she was relevant to the Zimbabwe of the 19th Century, she remains relevant to the Zimbabwe of the 21st century, especially to today and tomorrow’s woman.

Women are fighting for spaces in a "male dominated" Zimbabwe, but Nehanda was brave enough to fight for spaces not only for women, but also for every Zimbabwean.

She is our pioneer.

Thus it is our responsibility to ensure that the goals and objectives that resulted in her execution are fulfilled and passed on from generation to generation.

For Nehanda’s execution was one of the first forms of political violence perpetrated against women to be documented.

Historical women in the West are still being highly recognised and they have been elevated to international figure heads e.g. Florence Nightingale, "The Lady with the Lamp".

Nurses know that.

Is it also an oversight that rural women and their heroic exploits against issues like violence do not feature in our discourses, and instead it is the urban, elite women who have to educate them about these?

How many rural and/or urban poor women sit on boards of most civil society organisations? Do they speak for themselves or the urban, elite and intellectual women speak on their behalf? It is high time that realistic synergies are made amongst women themselves despite social class.

Notwithstanding the violence women encounter, women should now find ways of departing from the victim syndrome, and concentrate their efforts on their victories.

The theme song at the celebration, "Tozeza baba," does not portray a victor mentality since it seeks to draw a wedge between, men, women and children; husbands and wives; fathers and children.

As crucibles of life, women did a remarkable job, laying the foundations of nationhood whose pillars are sharing and caring irrespective of gender, colour, creed, religion and political affiliation.

Therefore, our children should remember us in a happy way.

And, future generations should fuse this day with other landmark events in our national history and remember them in a happy way.

They should remember the day when women came together to make a commitment to peace building, and to shun all forms of violence in society.

Cde Joice Mujuru’s summed it up very well when she used the Rugare (covo or collard greens) vegetable and cabbage as symbols to signify continuity and stagnation, life and death, and she emphasised that peace should be shared across every facet of our lives.

STERP key to stability

By Tichaona Zindoga

ZIMBABWE’S Finance Minister Tendai Biti on Wednesday told visiting Norwegian Environment and International Development Minister Erik Solheim that the international community should give Zimbabwe some breathing space so that Government could deal with pressing issues.

He challenged the West to remove the benchmarks for aid extended to Zimbabwe as they stood in the way of Zimbabwe’s development.

Zimbabwe, which has been ravaged by a serious economic decline attributed to both internal and extraneous factors, requires, according to Hon Biti, up to US$8 billion for reconstruction and developmental purposes.

But European Union countries and America, which had been presumed ready to assist Zimbabwe in the wake of a new government in Zimbabwe have been literally tying strings to their re-engagement with Zimbabwe after they severed ties with the country early this decade.

Norway, which had appeared to follow suit in isolating Zimbabwe, has however shown willingness to close ranks with Zimbabwe, becoming the second European country after Denmark recently announced its willingness to engage Zimbabwe, to show an urge to work with this nation.

In effect, Hon Biti’s challenge to Norway was an attempt to disabuse the West of the Robert Cooper idea that discourages the developed world from engaging developing world countries on an equal, sensitive and co-operative basis, that has been applied, but not exclusively to Zimbabwe by the West.

In 2002 Cooper, chief policy advisor of then British prime minister Tony Blair wrote an essay that drew intense criticism for his perception of developing world countries in the advent of "new liberal imperialism".

As a senior British diplomat, Cooper also helped to shape Blair’s calls for a new internationalism and a new doctrine of humanitarian intervention which would place limits on state sovereignty.

In an essay, he challenged the "post-modern" states to get used to the idea of double standards.

"Among ourselves, we operate on the basis of laws and open co-operative security," he wrote.

"But when dealing with more old-fashioned kinds of states outside the post-modern continent of Europe, we need to revert to the rougher methods of an earlier era — force, pre-emptive attack, deception, whatever is necessary to deal with those who still live in the 19th century world of every state for itself.

"Among ourselves, we keep the law but when we are operating in the jungle, we must also use the laws of the jungle."

Britain has since 2000 tried to internationalise its differences with Zimbabwe over the latter’s resolve to repossess land that British colonists stole from the indigenous peoples.

This has led to the European Union bloc, the US and Canada — which Cooper describes as post-modern states — to try to isolate Zimbabwe.

Japan, named as another post-modern state, also bought into Britain’s agenda and issued travel warnings against Zimbabwe, which prejudiced the country of millions of dollars in tourist revenue.

Thankfully, these have just recently been lifted.

The isolation of Zimbabwe, which has been coupled with economic sanctions against the country, has led to an unprecedented strain on the ordinary man, woman and child.

Despite growing pressure from Sadc right up to United Nations Security Council permanent members China and Russia, who have called for an end to Zimbabwe’s isolation, no significant change has been registered in this regard.

Although pledging to give humanitarian aid to Zimbabwe, the European Union and the United States have not ventured to help Zimbabwe with developmental aid, which move has been perceived to have set the wrong vibes for the Bretton Woods institutions’ hoped-for re-engagement with Zimbabwe.

The IMF and the World Bank froze budgetary support and credit lines to Zimbabwe a few years ago and there have been recent efforts, epitomised in the recent visit by a delegation from the organisation, to weigh options for resumption of relations with Zimbabwe.

But the institutions’ insistence on conditions for re-admission of Zimbabwe does nothing to dispel fears that they are also Cooper-bound on Zimbabwe.

In the essay Cooper opines that post-modern imperialism takes two forms.

"First, there is the voluntary imperialism of the global economy. This is usually operated by an international consortium through international financial institutions such as the IMF and the World Bank — it is characteristic of the new imperialism that it is multilateral.

"These institutions provide help to states wishing to find their way back into the global economy and into the virtuous circle of investment and prosperity.

"In return they make demands which, they hope, address the political and economic failures that have contributed to the original need for assistance. Aid theology today increasingly emphasises governance.

"If states wish to benefit, they must open themselves up to the interference of international organisations and foreign states."

And it would seem the minister has finally acquainted himself with this doctrine and is prepared to challenge it through calling for the removal of these "walls" of imperialistic conditions.

But it is not just this area in this regard that he has acquainted himself with.

When he recently reviewed the expenditure proposals of the National Budget announced by then Acting Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa, and tabled the new economic blueprint Short-Term Economic Recovery Plan, he finally put to rest largely unrealistic expectations that new players in Government would conjure up an inexhaustible stash of funds.

This was mainly due to the presumption that "the international community" was waiting by the door with lofty alms to help Zimbabwe rebuild after a decade of economic decline.

The expectations appeared confirmed when, shortly after taking office, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai announced to the world the Chinamasa-proposed measure to award civil servants US$100 allowances.

But Biti chopped a massive US$900 million of the proposed $1,7 billion expenditure and immediately announced the launch of the Short-Term Economic Recovery Plan the Government would pursue until the end of the year.

The economy, he said, was going to operate on a "We eat what we gather basis" with Government expenditure being determined by its revenue receipts.

For the month of February and part of March, he noted, such receipts were only US$25 million and US$30 million respectively, against a projected US$140 million and this was not even enough to review upwards the "modest" US$100 allowances for the civil service.

On the other hand, fiscal demands were "high and limitless" and this was not helped by the existence, he said, of perennial vehicles of fiscal drainage such as Air Zimbabwe, which required vast amounts from the fiscus.

And because of the economic downturn that has resulted in the world nose-diving into a recession unmatched in the last seven decades, aid has not been coming Zimbabwe’s way.

In apparent reference to the Western donor community that had been assumed would take the leading role in mobilising funds for Zimbabwe, Hon Biti said that "where financial linkages to the affected countries are stronger" the impacts of the downturn "have been more pronounced".

But there has been a glimmer of light, though, with the Southern African Development Community, led by South Africa, working on a rescue package for Zimbabwe.

South Africa has pledged a US$2 billion package to Zimbabwe and has taken the lead in encouraging the West to re-engage Zimbabwe and extend not only humanitarian but also developmental support to Zimbabwe.

In the review, Biti hinted that the Government would dispose of its "family silverware", with reference to selling off some of its parastatals such as NetOne, a mobile telephone provider.

And this was just about the confirmation that with the inclusive Government Zimbabwe might be even moving into a macrobiotic lifestyle, after all.

Macrobiotics, found in early classical writings of the likes of Herodotus, Aristotle, Galen and Hippocrates, is more than an eating regimen but a way of life characterised by the desire for longevity and nourishment.

It is about a simple diet of food that is found and processed locally.

It seeks to avoid the consumption of too much and over-processed foods.

It is a philosophy that emphasises on watching what one eats as this has a bearing on health.

And with no indications of a deluge of Western money and aid, Hon Biti seems to have set the country on a path of macrobiotics.

STERP, which he calls a capacity-based rehabilitation programme, meaning basically operating on what the Government can fund and achieve, is set to lay a foundation for future Government programmes to stabilise the economy.

IMF hails Zim fiscal reforms

By Fanuel Kangondo and Michael Padera

THE International Monetary Fund has commended Government for taking positive steps towards restoration of relations with the Bretton Woods institution while Denmark and the World Bank have given Harare a total of US$18,7 million to refurbish water and sewage treatment plants with the African Development Bank pledging 2 million euros for the same purpose.

In its report released this week after an Article IV Consultative Mission from March 9-24, the IMF mission led by Mr Vitaliy Karamenko noted that Zimbabwe had taken steps towards re-integration in the international financial system and potentially new loans for reconstruction.

The mission’s report to assess economic conditions and the country’s policy response will be tabled for an IMF board discussion on Zimbabwe in May amid growing optimism that this could pave the way for restoration of the country’s voting rights.

This would enable Zimbabwe to use IMF resources and ultimately open doors for the resumption of much-needed standby arrangements for balance of payments support.

The Article IV mission report paid tribute to the inclusive Government’s commitment to fiscal discipline through the adoption of the multiple currency system which would eliminate the monetisation of the budget deficit.

"The mission welcomes the authorities’ commitment to eliminate quasi-fiscal activities and implement cash budgeting (matching monthly expenditure to monthly revenue) in 2009. To ensure an improvement in the delivery of public services, the Government would need to mobilise significant donor financial support and contain the wage bill.

"The credibility of the Government’s commitment to fiscal discipline is reinforced by the adoption of the multiple currency system because under such a system it is not possible to monetise the budget deficit.

"To facilitate transactions and improve credit availability, there is an urgent need to attune the payments system and banking supervision to the needs of the multiple currency system.

"Accountability and transparency of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe should be strengthened. Moreover, the RBZ should refrain from quasi-fiscal operations and focus on core central bank activities."

The report further stated that some structural changes that had earlier been recommended by the IMF had already been implemented and these included price liberalisation, removal of surrender requirements and most exchange restrictions on current account transactions.

The report also hailed the imposition of hard budget constraints on parastatal enterprises and the elimination of the Grain Marketing Board’s monopoly.

"Going forward, strengthening the investment climate, ensuring protection of property rights, and maintaining wages at competitive levels will be essential for increasing domestic and foreign investment."

The report also acknowledged the efforts of the recently launched Short-Term Emergency Recovery Programme which focuses on macroeconomic policy and supply-side measures aimed at achieving low inflation, arresting economic decline and improving social conditions.

The positive report comes in the wake of reports from some quarters suggesting that Zimbabwe would never be able to restore relations with the IMF unless it cleared outstanding arrears with the Bretton Woods institution.

It is anticipated that the Sadc summit set for Swaziland on Monday, at which the regional grouping will consider a US$2 billion rescue package for Zimbawbe, will set the tone for future engagement with Harare.

This will most probably help the country settle its arrears with the IMF and outstanding obligations with other multilateral institutions.

Meanwhile, Denmark has committed US$8,7 million to Harare City Council for the refurbishment of the city’s water and sewage treatment

Mr Muchadeyi Masunda has confirmed.

The African Development Bank has also pledged 2 million euros while the World Bank last week gave US$10 million to the city for the same purpose.

Harare and other urban local authorities have traditionally relied on the donor community to keep the water and sewer facilities working.

Mr Masunda said Danish Minister of Co-operation Development Ms Ulla Tornaes, who was in Zimbabwe recently, announced during meetings with city officials that her government would immediately give US$4,7 million to revamp the Morton Jaffray and Prince Edward water treatment works as well as the Firle and Crowborough sewage treatment plants.

"We took her to Budiriro where she pledged US$4,7 million. She said she would commit another US$4 million when she returned to her country," he said.

Mr Masunda said the city had impressed on all the donors the need to fund the rehabilitation of the city’s water and sewer infrastructure.

Mr Masunda said the Firle and Crowborough sewage treatment works had been down for the past two and half years which meant that raw sewage has been finding its way into the city’s water reservoirs hence the huge water treatment bill.

The funds would be channelled to the city through Unicef.

Ms Tornaes was in Zimbabwe to assess the situation following the formation of the inclusive Government, making Denmark the first EU country to engage in dialogue with Zimbabwe.

No comments: