In this overview of 2014, we look at some of the most topical Zimbabwe events 2014 affecting women and discussions around gender-related issues. The list is not exhaustive and we welcome additions.
The Arts and Sports
Actress Pretty Xaba dies
The arts industry lost one of its veteran actresses, Pretty Xaba, popularly known as ‘Siphilisiwe‘ or ‘Mai Muwengwa‘ for her role in the local soap Studio 263. Xaba also featured in a number of local productions including, ‘Xola‘, ‘Everyone’s Child‘, “I Want a Wedding Dress‘ (a film by Tsitsi Dangarembga‘, ‘Murambiwa‘ and ‘Something Nice from London‘, a short film adaptation of a short story from Petina Gappah’s ‘Elegy for Easterly’. Xaba succumbed to cancer of the oesophagus in December. After being diagnosed in July 2014, she had received treatment in India following financial assistance from several well wishers.
Local writers win notable literary awards
Following on a from a year of widespread acclaim for her debut novel, ‘We Need New Names’, NoViolet Bulawayo went on to win the inaugural Etisalat Prize for African Literature. Her book would also win the PEN/ Hemingway Award for Debut Fiction. Late last year, another Zimbabwean writer, Novuyo Rosa Tshuma, was longlisted for the 2015 Etisalat Prize. In the same year, Tshuma’s novella ‘Shadows’ won the Herman Charles Bosman Prize for best literary work. Also in 2014, Blessing Musariri won the inaugural Cordite African Crime Fiction Prize.
Miss Zimbabwe pageant returns amid controversy
The return of the Miss Zimbabwe pageant after a year’s absence was marred by a series of controversies that saw three different queens wearing the crown in 2014. Thabiso Phiri who had initially been crowned Miss Zimbabwe 2014 had to step down barely a month into her reign due to undisclosed circumstances. There were rumours that the reason for her resignation was as a result of the leaked photos her ex-lover shared with the public on social media. Phiri however denied these allegations.
Catherine Makaya who had replaced Phiri in August was dethroned three weeks before she would depart for the Miss World Finals held in London. The trust revealed that they had relieved Makaya of her duties on the grounds of insubordination. Tendai Hunda took over and made it for the Miss World Finals. Described by many as a fiasco, she only arrived four days into boot camp and missed most of the fast track events and competitions that prepare participants for the finals.
Athlete Samukeliso Sithole killled
Transgender athlete, Samukeliso Sithole was killed by her younger brother following an inheritance dispute.
Sharon Macheso in public marital breakdown
In a year in which her father, sungura artist Alick Macheso, made headlines for alleged child abuse and a faltering marriage that ended in divorce, Sharon Macheso’s own marriage also became a public controversy after an equally publicised wedding.
A few months after the wedding, Macheso filed for divorce citing charges of domestic violence against her husband, Kudakwashe Munetsi. The courts granted Macheso a protection order against Munetsi who was also ordered to pay a US$200 fine for domestic violence. The two accused each other of adultery. among other frailties.
Ammara Brown and Roki publicise intentions to marry
The announcement that popular musicians Brown and Roki were considering marriage could be Zimbabwe’s equivalent to Lisa Marie Presley and Michael Jackson’s 1994 surprise marriage. Roki, the controversial and popular urban grooves artist and Brown, the daughter of the celebrated late musician, Andy Brown, made the announcement in June.
Cara Black wins WTA title
Zimbabwe’s Cara Black, together with India’s Sania Mirza, were crowned doubles champions after lifting up the Martina Navratilova Trophy at the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA ) finals in Singapore in October. Black and Mirza beat second seeds Hsieh Su-wei and Peng Shuai from China to win the title.
Joice Mujuru removed from vice presidency
Allegedly finding itself with infested with ‘elements of factionalism’, the ruling ZANU-PF dismissed and suspended several party members in leadership positions, including former Vice President, Dr Joice Mujuru, accused of leading a faction working towards removing President Robert Mugabe. Soon after the party’s 6th National People’s Congress, Mujuru was removed from her position, along with eight cabinet ministers.
Grace Mugabe acquires controversial PhD and is appointed ZANU-PF Women’s League Secretary
The First Lady was conferred with a PhD by the University of Zimbabwe (UZ) late last year. The PhD, which was attained from the Faculty of Social Studies, is said to have focused on children’s homes in Zimbabwe but is widely deemed to be implausible given that Mugabe had only just completed her undergraduate studies in Chinese Language in 2011, and is not known to hold a Masters degree.
Mugabe was part of a graduating class that also included former Vice President, Joice Mujuru, who received a PhD from the Faculty of Commerce. While the two women convivially posed for photographs with President Mugabe, who is also Chancellor of the UZ, relations between them were soon to sour. After a surprise nomination to the position of secretary of the ZANU-PF Women’s League, Mugabe embarked on a cross country ‘Meet The People’ tour during which an attack on Mujuru as a dissident voice within the party began in earnest.
Mugabe was appointed ZANU-PF Women’s League Secretary in December.
Sekai Holland named President of MDC Renewal
After breaking away from MDC-T earlier in the year, the Tendai Biti–led MDC Renewal later restructured its leadership and named Sekai Holland as the interim president in September 2014. Holland was to act as interim president until the party’s next congress. Later in the year, however, MDC Renewal joined forces with the Welshman Ncube-led MDC later in the year to form United MDC. Holland and Ncube were appointed co-presidents of the new coalition.
Amai Jukwa exposed
State investigations into the identity behind the anonymous online character Baba Jukwa is led to the arrest of former Sunday Mail Editor Edmud Kudzayi. Kudzayi denied the allegations claiming he was working with government officials to try to expose ‘the real Baba Jukwa‘. Kudzayi however confessed that he was Amai Jukwa and had contributed to the column in the Herald, ‘Political Mondays with Amai Jukwa‘, since February 2013.
Gender Commission Bill gazetted
A positive development in the promotion of gender equality was the gazetting of the Gender Commission Bill by government. Its provisions contain crucial steps towards operationalisation of the proposed Gender Commission, provided for in section 245 of the new constitution, which is intended to oversee and regulate policies towards equal participation of men and women in all decision-making positions, as well as to deal with gender discrimination.The Bill was welcomed by women across the country as it will give guiding principles to the Gender Commission if passed into law. The gender commission is already established by section 245 of the constitution. The Bill was approved by cabinet in August.
Activism and Rights
Serial rapists charged
Zimbabwean courts handed down one of the longest sentences given to a convicted rapist early in 2014. A 230-year jail term was given to Thomas Brighton Chirembwe in February Chirembwe was convicted on 21 counts of rape and armed robbery.
Controversial RMG Independent End Time Message leader Robert Gumbura was also handed a sentence of 40 years in prison on four counts of rape involving 3 women. He was also convicted for possessing pornographic material. Gumbura had been accused of sexually abusing female members of his congregation. It is also alleged he did this with the knowledge of some of his eleven wives.
Mildred Mapingure case signals hope for greater provisions for rape survivors
The Supreme Court made a landmark ruling to remunerate Mildred Mapingure, a rape survivor who suffered the inefficiencies and biases of the justice delivery system. Mapingure was raped in an attack by robbers in Chegutu in 2006. The rape led to an unwanted pregnancy. After a series of events which denied her her legal right to access an abortion – as per stipulations of the Termination of Pregnancy Act which allows for terminations in the event of rape – Mapingure carried the pregnancy to term and gave birth. She sued the government for a total of US$51 000 in damages and maintenance of her child. The Supreme Court granted a judgement making provisions to remunerate Mapingure’s damages, but not to support the child’s maintenance.
Activists march against gender injustices
Women’s University Africa students held a commemorative march for their slain colleague, Isabel Masuka, a 39–year–old student of the institution who was murdered by her husband Lewis Matanda in April 2014. Matanda later committed suicide after confessing to the murder.
The Ministry of Women’s Affairs Gender and Community Development together with civil society organisations and women‘s interest groups joined the students in the march.
A section of Zimbabwe women’s movement also organised a meeting with the Nigerian Embassy in Zimbabwe during which a petition was forwarded for the Nigerian government to ensure the safe return of all the Chibok girls kidnapped in Nigeria. More than 200 girls were kidnapped by Boko Haram from a government secondary school in Borno state in Nigeria.
Mini skirt march fuels debate
Women Rights lobby group, Katswe Sistahood, organised a march dubbed ‘the mini-skirt march’ to protest to the continued harassment of women by touts, especially at commuter omnibus ranks. Discussion around bodily integrity and sexual assault ensued on social media, with the hashtah #MiniSkirtMarch prompting varied debate. Later in the year, a video of a woman being stripped at a rank by touts went viral, leading the Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe to convene a press briefing and issue a statement.
As a result of the widespread publicity, Marvelous Kandemiri, who took part in the stripping appeared before the courts charged with indecent assault.
This article was compiled by Fungai Machirori and Daphne Jena.