I woke up to my phone making endless sounds showing messages were going in at one minute intervals. Everyone who put a message in my whatsup was very angry. People were desperate for anyone they knew worked for women to just say something because action to protect women is often delayed and then denied. Men were very angry and these were good men. They wanted the Kombi rank touts and thugs punished. The men especially from Zimbabwe who live in South Africa expressed anger. Then I knew I had to watch the videos posted in my whatsup. I opened and saw over 20 video messages. Ogh my God, the woman was being stripped naked and they were shouting hure meaning prostitute and loose woman. The men doing this to her were identifiable.
All I wanted to know was whether the woman would survive. One good man came to her rescue during this physical harassment. Just one man who was kind came to her rescue and we insist we know him so that we thank him for saving a life.
Of course this is not an isolated incident. I hear that two or so women were harassed the same way in the same week in Zimbabwe.Kenya too had similar incidents where men judge the length of your dress or skirt and decide to punish you for wearing mini skirts. What mini brains they have!!!
So now the big search is on the young woman to come to Zimbabwe Republic Police and press charges. It looks as if she is too traumatised to come out. By the time this article was posted no one had confirmed this sister had come forward.Mind you, there is fear amongst the women from this background that if you go to police as a victim you may end up being blamed. The violations against their bodies take place daily whether they are in so called long or short dresses. Any woman can get beaten for whatever reason justified by some men. I think right now she is afraid to press charges after she was castigated by these touts in public.
Zimbabwean problems and challenges politically and economically are quite complex. This mob of touts is a grouping of men who operate under guise of so called Kombi touts but to someone with a sharp eye these are unemployed men made powerless by the current harsh economic situation. They come from all over the country and most of them maybe involved in drug abuse. They are feared and they have terrorized many. They have been banned, re banned and re banned and banned again and again and this shows they are unwanted in society, but they mushroom at different taxi ranks doing same works of terror.
Their easiest targets are women and girls. They hit targets on certain days and even demand sex for being set free. They survive on committing abuse on whoever they feel is weak.This one particular sister who got the world crying is but one of them. There are many young girls who get trafficked.
My question is whither to Zimbabwe? The answer is very simple. Lets deal with root causes rather than being hypocritical. The economic situation has to improve and good industries absorb all these young men and women lying idle. An idle mind is a dangerous mind. I am hoping though short term solution is to arrest the touts but long term solution is to ensure the economic situation improves. This is a signal that society is now rotten. Chinua Achebe is right when he asserts that Things Fall Apart.
Then for women`s movements who met and spoke against the harassment of our sister in Zimbabwe, I feel it is time all those hotel donor funded workshops stop. Here in UK no donor gives money for that at all. Funding goes to the service user. You need drop in centers for women and you also need to train women like her in community work that would empower her and other women to protect themselves. The women`s movement in Zimbabwe is very elitist-it is not known by those who need it most. How come this sister of ours does not even know whether you exist to support her and she could have come to one of the organisations for women for support rather than going into hiding.
More work needs to be done in places of economic instability like Zimbabwe. Making press statements without this woman is hypocritical. Nothing without her is for her remains the truth. That said, I appeal to anyone helping Zimbabwe to support drop in centers for women who suffer violence. I don’t care where funding goes to but what is key is to minimize elitist press meetings when such life threatening events happen and start focusing on real support women need. We see such support here in UK where most of the funding comes from. The money goes to support services in counseling, housing, income generation and legal aid for women like the one who fell victim to the touts.
Muzvare Betty Makoni is former Chair of the Women`s Coalition in Zimbabwe -2005 to 2007