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Grace Kwinjeh: Zimbabwe and politics of the vagina

By Grace Kwinjeh

Three young women suffered physical and sexual violence apparently perpetrated by state security agents. The three Joanah Mamombe, Netsai Marova and Cecilia Chinembiri, gave emotional accounts of the humiliation and pain they had suffered. They give a gory, heart wrenching account of how they were sexually molested with guns.

Grace Kwinjeh is a journalist and and women's rights advocate.
Grace Kwinjeh is a journalist and and women’s rights advocate.

Since the days of Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle, rape has been a potent weapon of war. We all remember, testimonies from female combatants of the rape they suffered during the liberation struggle, that birthed a new Zimbabwe.

Rape that Zanu PF has never openly acknowledged or apologised to them, to allow for their healing.

40 years of independence the pattern keeps repeating itself – the vagina remains under siege. This juxtaposed to how the opposition responds to opposition from females in its ranks, the discourse becomes excruciatingly painful. But I gather the courage to write.

How the vulnerable young women suddenly found themselves unprotected on the war front, in direct confrontation of a ruthless state security apparatus, is yet to be understood, as the dust settles and they receive their healing.

In the past two years, as Zimbabwe suffered brutal violence, rape cases have been recorded, we all still hear the shrill cries of women during the August 1, 2018 violence, in yet another dark episode in which the vagina got targeted in war.

Did the MDC before sending these youths out, carry out a reconnaissance mission, to understand the risk involved?

It is abundantly clear that Zanu PF is not going to allow protests that will remove it from power, meaning any such action taken by a party leadership to seemingly unleash vulnerable young women as bait to a vile system should be condemned.

So disconcerting is that one asks these questions at the risk of being labelled and viciously attacked, there is no room to bring leaders to account on strategies, that seem to favour the opponent more than the cause for democracy itself.

Black female bodies and their vaginas have suffered enough misogyny. Misogyny both as tools for pleasure and political warfare.

Exposed in just a week are shocking double standards by known misogynists, philanderer in opposition ranks, who suddenly became ‘sensitive’ to the plight of the women, morphing into “gender activists” crying louder than us women.

The personal is political, meaning how these men view women in their daily lives, with disdain and disrespect especially those that oppose them, exposes an insidious attempt to ride on the pain of the girls for political mileage.

The vagina suffers at the hands of both ZANU PF and the MDC.

There has never been outrage at attacks against Thokozani Khupe allegations that she pleasures herself on the President of the country. Instead of opposing Khupe with solid arguments, her vagina becomes a site for struggle, ‘hure’ tag hovers over her head.

Senior male leaders write without shame on her wall that she has opened her skirts for Mnangagwa. They see nothing wrong with this and that it mirrors the response to opposition of the system they claim to be fighting. One shudders to think if they had the state apparatus in their hands, what would Khupe’s fate have been?

Males who are known for pleasuring themselves on any vagina of choice, with no restraint or shame. Yes they fish even in Zanu PF waters.

The vagina becomes useful to them as a political weapon useful in proving case against Zanu PF’s ruthlessness, also as a weapon for humiliating women who fall out of favour with them.

Thus, when I questioned on social media why risk the girls lives to Covid-19, given the horrible experience we are going through here in Europe, black women’s bodies are at risk, black women are dying, when they should not be.

Instead of focusing on the merits or demerits of my concern, I endured 72 hours of the most horrible, torment, attacks on my person by democrats. The same mentality in Zanu PF of humiliating in order to silence, became clear, I was called all sorts, “Chembere” “Gogo”. That I had expired politically, including a callous agenda to link me with Thokozani Khupe and Linda Masarira.

Yes, democrats have dehumanised these women, their cause their voice no longer matters, because they dare to challenge an opposition system. In linking me to these women, the motive was to also dehumanise, neutralise me in rather naïve attempt to downplay my concerns.

The democrats needed the optic of attacked young women, to draw attention and sympathy to themselves, never mind the folly of such a strategy, as it is not sustainable, increases fear in communities, not to mention activists getting struggle weary.

By dehumanising and publicly humiliating me the democrats suffer a false sense moral bravado, unintentionally exposing the beasts within themselves when challenged on issues of national importance.

Consequently, needed is introspection by any right thinking Zimbabwean must be aware of and guard against, letting this mentality take us into a new Zimbabwe, we will be in serious trouble. A new Zimbabwe needs strong institutions that will not give individuals too much power, to do as they wish without restraint.

Power to dehumanise and “other” a person because she has spoken out, why I am in exile today, now confronted by a new enemy my own fellow Cdes. It’s painful.

At this juncture in Zimbabwe’s history, one would think 20 years of struggle and sacrifice would have groomed a sensitive, sympathetic opposition politician who respects vagina, but no. They ruthlessly went after my scars and wounds, now that they no longer serve a political purpose for them, I have become obsolete as an activist and a leader. Such is the painful story.

Vagina struggles on to be heard, to be understood. She struggles on to change his-story to her-story, where who she is, her dignity is respected. Vagina still has to find her voice.

Grace Kwinjeh is a journalist and and women’s rights advocate

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