• Reply to: Weighing in on Devolution

    There has been debate in the current constitution making process on whether to adopt devolution of power as part of our governance system. It is alleged that some quotas in the Inclusive Government, for reasons known to themselves, have been misrepresenting the findings from the public consultative process. Newspaper reports in the past few months indicated that ZANU PF had the issue debated at one of its Politburo meetings and issued a statement that this system of government will not be a feature in the new constitution as it viewed it as divisive. Devolution is a system of government where local communities are mandated to ensure that they raise resources from their communities to develop their areas and decisions are not necessarily imposed by central government. The running of local councils in Zimbabwe comes close to it except that the minister of local government, Ignatius Chombo has interfered in the running of councils by appointing one Commission after another for reasons that are largely political, but that is a piece for another day. If the findings of the outreach exercise point to the fact that devolution was given thumbs up, the implications would be very serious. The people’s views are influenced by experiences of post -independent Zimbabwe where resource allocation has been questionable, favouring one clique or biased against a certain region. It might not be intentional, but the perception in politics is all that matters for shaping people’s views. It is believed that many state-of-the-art health facilities are found in Mashonaland West and that they have some of the best trained medical personnel including expatriate doctors. Then compared with areas such as Chipinge, the disparities are so glaring that they raise questions. How does one justify the setting up of a diamond polishing company in Mashonaland West Province, yet diamonds are mined in Marange which is in Manicaland? Or, perhaps the most controversial one, justifying the lack of seriousness on the part of central government to complete the Matebeleland Zambezi Water Project.


    In such circumstances who would blame the people of Matebeleland for saying the region is marginalized and therefore there is need to devolve power so they can manage their own affairs. The problem with the caliber of politicians we have is that when the issue of devolution is raised, there is suspicion and perhaps a feeling of guilt that comes up. Whereas the inclusion of the voices of different ethnic or tribal groups should be celebrated as a resource in building democracy, in Zimbabwe, the mere mention of the different ethnicities is perceived as an attempt to divide the country. The Ndebeles, the Ndaus, the Karangas, the Kalangas, Tongas,  and others are resources for nation building and have a right to take part in determining the course of the country and adding their voices to that process. It becomes a problem to think that the call for devolution of power is associated with attempts to divide the country, only because some people are guilty of such atrocious acts such as Gukurahundi committed in the 80s. The role of central government is to ensure that regions are allocated sufficient resources to equally develop and not to favour any specific regions because the people in higher offices are from certain ethnic groups. Diamonds in Marange surely should play a big part in developing Manicaland province, as much as granite extraction must benefit the people of Mashonaland East. Equally important, people of Matebeleland deserve a reliable supply of water. Let us celebrate the resources we have to develop our country including all Zimbabweans regardless of ethnicity and race.

    Good article

  • Reply to: Zim's New Cabinet: An Open Letter to Mr R.G Mugabe

    by Kudakwashe Chitsike

    Dear Mr President,

    I read with concern an article in one of the newspapers, which reported that you defended your decision to appoint only three women to Cabinet by saying that Zimbabwean women are uneducated and do not have the intellectual capacity to take up office. The newspaper quoted you directly as having said the following: “Give us the women. This time we did proportional representation; there were just not enough women. Women are few in universities.” Is this really true, Mr President? I have always regarded you as a progressive man, and I am having a hard time believing that these were your words. Perhaps the media misunderstood you, or just deliberately misconstrued your statement. The private media is very mischievous, isn’t it?

    You have been the president, and therefore boss of this country for more than 30 years, overseeing everything that happens in your government. How is it possible that 52% of your population is still not educated enough to take Cabinet posts? There are other important things I could raise, that seem to have also escaped your attention, but that is a letter I will write on another day. I hope that now that you have noticed this challenge, you are going to do something over the next five years to turn around the education system and ensure that there will be more women in the next Cabinet. Such a positive outcome is something we would look forward to in 2018!  Image

    I am a product of the education system that you inherited from the British when you took over the reigns in 1980. Kudos to you for maintaining the system for years, you really did your best. I stand proudly as a Zimbabwean wherever I go because I know I can hold my own in my chosen field, thanks to this system. Most Zimbabwean women in my circles are educated, holders of Masters degrees and even PhDs. Is this still not good enough for the Cabinet? Zimbabweans are finding jobs all over the world because they are well educated. A few months ago, you rightly pointed out that Zimbabweans are running the South African economy. A good number of Zimbabweans working in illustrious jobs in that country are women. If they are good enough to be scooped up by vibrant economies, why not our Cabinet?

    The University of Zimbabwe - the oldest higher learning institution in this country - is churning out more women than men and has been for quite some time. None from there were suitable? We as Zimbabweans have always prided ourselves in our education, this year we were rated as having a literacy rate of more than 90%. Unfortunately this percent was not gender disaggregated. Had it been, then that would have been something I would draw your attention to.

    Could it be that, Mr President, you meant to say that women in your party are the uneducated ones, since you were only looking within the party for these posts? If that is the case, then I understand. You were clearly stuck between a rock and a hard place. Your desire must have been to have a number of competent women in the Cabinet not only to adhere to the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development ratified by the 7th Parliament in October 2009, but also so that Zimbabwe achieves the gender equality enshrined in our constitution. I understand if you say that in your party, there were just not enough competent female candidates. What could you do but select the best of the lot? You only managed to find 3.

    Isn’t it also interesting that the issue of quality and level of education arises only when it comes to filling certain positions with women? What about the qualities and qualifications of the men in your Cabinet? Did they all go to university? What kind of men are they? What exactly was your selection criterion for Cabinet? It took you more than 40 days to come up with the list, so I assume it must have been a rigorous exercise. Were the candidates selected because of their qualities, or on the basis of them being loyal to you and/or the party? One of these days I will sit and go through each of their profiles, maybe the answers will come from there.

    I look forward to your response Mr President.

    Yours faithfully,

    Concerned Citizen

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  • Reply to: Law vs Culture: Judgment on Age of Marriage in Zimbabwe

    By Kuda Chitsike

    Last month, Zimbabwe ramped up legal measures to end child marriage, a hopeful sign for a dire problem.

    Child marriage is widely recognized as a violation of children's rights, and it is generally described as the marrying of (primarily) girls under the age of 18. According to UNICEF, in Southern Africa 33 percent of women between the ages of 20 and 24 were married in childhood. It is direct discrimination of the girl child, who, as a result, is often deprived of her basic rights to health, education, development, and equality.  It also exposes girls to intimate partner violence and isolation from economic activities which have long lasting psychological consequences. Tradition, religion, patriarchy and poverty continue to fuel the practice of child marriage, despite its strong association with adverse consequences for girls.

    For more than a decade there has been a sustained and dedicated effort by policymakers, government ministries, U.N. bodies, international and local non-governmental organisations, community-based organisations and individual activists to end child marriage in Zimbabwe. All these efforts culminated in a case being brought before Zimbabwe’s Constitutional Court in January 2015, with the judgement coming a year later that finally outlawed marriage before 18 for both girls and boys.

    The case was brought by Loveness Mudzure and Ruvimbo Tsopodzi, (two former child brides), who, through their lawyer, Tendai Biti, took the courageous step of challenging the Marriages Act, which had allowed girls to marry before the age of 18. This case was brought with the support of non-governmental organisations, Roots, Veritas and Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR). 

    The judgment is very welcome as the Marriages Act set the legal age for marriage at 16 for girls and 18 for boys, which contradicts the Constitution that promotes gender equality. Zimbabwe followed in the footsteps of other Southern African countries that have set 18, and, in some instances 21, as the legal age of marriage. Most recently Malawi did this, but many of these countries have exceptions where girls are allowed to marry as early as 15, if they have parental consent.  As we celebrate this judgment, there is a need to look at the issues of child marriage and consent to sex holistically and educate society because the issue is interpreted in a confusing manner in our conservative and religious society.

    The Criminal Codification and Reform Act states that girls under 12 cannot consent to sex and sexual relations at that age are always regarded as rape.  This changes however, for girls who are above 12, but under 14, at which point the perpetrator, shall still be charged with rape. However, the law further states that, if the male can prove that the girl was capable of giving consent, and that she gave her consent, then the perpetrator cannot be charged with rape but with “sexual intercourse with a young person.”  The law goes on to states that if a girl above 14 but less than 16 has sex with her consent, it is not rape but “sexual intercourse with a young person.” Girls over 16 can consent to sex but cannot marry until they are 18 according to the judgment.

    The law is effectively saying it is permissible for girls to have sex at 16, and, if she is in love and/or becomes pregnant, and wants to get married, she cannot.  This gets more confusing in reality.  Culturally in Zimbabwe, having sex and becoming pregnant is an acceptable path towards marriage, but having unmarried sex and is highly disapproved of. The judgment now creates a clash between the law and age-old culture, but also removes discretion. Are we denying those over 16 who can consent to sex but are under 18, have parental consent, and want to get married, the right to do so?   This lack of discretion is not the case in other Southern African countries, and the judgment seems a case of overkill for the problem of child marriage.

    Although poverty is primarily blamed for driving the practice, there are other factors driving child marriage in Zimbabwe. These range from religious practices, lack of discipline at home, abuse, and family disruptions to over sexualization of the girl child. However, the main driver of child marriage is deeply rooted in the dignity of the family. In order to protect the family honor, as long as the girl is married the circumstances that preceded or led to the marriage are forgotten.  According to research in one district in Zimbabwe, one woman stated that her standing in society is much better as a mother to a married child, whether over or under 18, rather than a single mother, regardless of the circumstances. The other women agreed, they talked about their dignity, (emphasis intended).

    Another said ‘if she is sexually active at 13 how do I stop her from having sex and getting pregnant repeatedly? It is better for her to get pregnant when she has a husband even though she is young. I do not want the responsibility of looking after her and her child while the father is free to do as he wishes. As she has started doing grown up things, she must take responsibility for her actions and stay with the man who made her pregnant.’

    The views of these women are not uncommon, and highlight a problem with the law as it is now to be applied. Whilst it is commendable that there is a legal power to prevent child marriage, the law must also take cognizance of reality and the fact that there are exceptions. The judgment is part of an effort to stop families from marrying off their daughters at an inappropriate age, but should not also penalize the girl child unnecessarily.

    Clearly there remains much to do, and little to do with the law. There is need to look at the legal system as a whole and propose a set of holistic legal and policy reforms that review the landscape of laws impacting on women and children. A broader range of policy alternatives and more sophisticated understanding of multiple strands of law and innovative legal strategies can converge to prevent child marriages.   

    This first appeared in the HuffPost Impact as a blog.

    RAU welcomes the opportunity for their research and articles to be utilised by the public with the proviso that any information that is used, quoted or referenced is credited to the Research and Advocacy Unit, Zimbabwe. RAU would also appreciate being informed of where and how the information has been used. Please email us on info@rau.co.zw


    Here at Rebus Legal, we have one aim: To make your journey through the legal process easy.Lawyer canning vale

  • Reply to: My Mother, The Alien.

    My mother was born and bred in Rusape, Zimbabwe, she has identified all her life as a Zimbabwean, while acknowledging the fact that she had immigrant parents. Her parents, were naturalised Zimbabweans, my grandfather was born in Mozambique and my grandmother was born in Malawi.

    In 2002 when the Citizenship Act was amended, my mother became an Alien. She had to renounce Mozambican and Malawian citizenship which she had never held, she went through an arduous and emotionally taxing experience dealing with the Registrar General’s office, never a pleasant place to be even on a good day. As well as dealing with the Mozambican and Malawian Embassies that did not recognise her as one of them and therefore did not make the process easy or cheap.

    Every time my mother has to renew her passport, she dilly dallies because she doesn’t want to go through the Citizenship office to have her papers verified and be made to feel less than what she is.

    Fast forward to 2017.

    On the 29th October, the first day of phase 2 of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) voter registration blitz, my mother confidently went to register with her ID, marriage certificate, my father’s death certificate and the proof of residence that still is his name. The process of dealing with the Master of the High Court is a story for another day. The registration officer was not interested in all her paperwork all he asked for was her ID. After examining it he told her she cannot register because she is an Alien! Her ID has CN on it, meaning she is a citizen via naturalisation and therefore not allowed to vote. The demeanor and scorn of the registration officer unnerved her. This was the first time she had been called an alien to her face. She was regarded as an alien, the aliens we see on Sci Fi movies, foreign, ugly and unwanted beings.

    Now, my mother is not one to be easily deterred or intimidated, she asked what her options were being an educated and savvy Gogo. She was told that had get her ID changed. She needed to go back to the Register General’s office, pay a certain amount and get a new ID. She had already done the renunciation process more than 10 years ago but it seems this wasn’t enough.

    My mother went home, checked her passport, it didn’t have CN on it so she went to a different centre nearby and used that to register! Upon the advice of random people at the centre, she got her proof of residence form already stamped by a Commissioner, who was some distance from the centre: all she had to do was fill in her details. Something she considered odd.

    My mother had a passport without CN on it; that was her saving Grace. She would not have been able to register if she only had the ID and did not have the $50 required to change the ID. How many people across the country have been turned away on this same technicality? What is ZEC doing to publicise this and make it easy for Zimbabweans to go and register to vote in accordance with the Constitution?

    With her passport the process took less than 10 minutes. Possibly the only positive thing she had to say about the whole process.

    Her experience with the registration process has made her more determined to vote when the time comes.

    My mother, the alien will vote in 2018.

    It was good nbb8