There is an uneasy relationship between government and the NGO sector as a whole, but, for those NGOs and CSOs that take a direct interest in governance itself, the relationship is more than uneasy: it is downright hostile. This is scarcely surprising for the organisations that have concerned themselves with governance, human rights, and the rule of law have continuously exposed the government to international opprobrium since 1998. In fact Zimbabwean civil society organisations can take considerable credit for the sterling job that they have done, and this can be dramatically demonstrated by comparison with other countries in the region.

At the centre of Seen but not Heard: Capturing Women’s Voices on Service Delivery - a study by the Research and Advocacy Unit (RAU) seeking to understand women’s views on their participation in local government - is the notion of citizenship and identity. Participation by women with structures of governance is often constricted and when this is coupled with the contested notions of citizenship and identity, in Zimbabwe, it becomes marred by the political processes in the country. 
This is based on the understanding that citizen participation is about power and its exercise by different social actors in the spaces created for the interaction between citizens and local authorities. However, the control of the structure and processes for participation - defining spaces, actors, agendas, procedures - is usually in the hands of governmental institutions and can become a barrier for effective involvement of citizens.[1]
While voters are vigorously engaged prior to elections and during the voting period, the process  of engagement ends soon after elections for most citizens and this contributes to a lack of accountability by government and public office bearers and abuse of office by some.
The majority of people live their daily lives at the local level where they engage with public services, markets and the political system. Their empowerment requires participation and accountability in local governance and decision making through effective and inclusive local citizenship. Supporting inclusion requires an understanding of existing power relationships and the practical obstacles to participation faced by poor people. [2]
By now, accountability is widely accepted as key to service delivery improvements. Accountability as a central theme of the debates on service delivery took root after the World Development Report of 2004 which identified failures in service delivery squarely as failures in accountability relationships (World Bank 2004). By showing how the ‘long route’ of accountability (via elected politicians and public officials through to providers) was failing the poor, the WDR argued in favour of strengthening the ‘short route’- direct accountability between users and providers.
In many African countries, ‘development’ still comes to communities as a gift from the ruling elite who decide where state-financed development projects are initiated. This is the nature of politics of development under the authoritarian presidential systems that reign in most of the countries.
The notion of “active citizenship” referred to in this RAU study is very important, and emphasises the great need to engage women in processes that would facilitate their agency. Here, and as pointed out earlier, Zimbabwe would seem little different from other developing countries, and, increasingly, development theory stresses the need for active involvement of women in development, together with a changed focus on the priorities in development to suit the needs of women.
It is assumed that citizen participation can improve service delivery outcomes.  This understanding is based on the belief that transparency and accountability initiatives lead to greater empowerment of poor people, greater awareness of rights by users and greater engagement in service delivery through the practice of citizenship. It can lead to a better match with local needs, improve service quality and access, and reduce corruption and resource misallocation.
However it is apparent that few public service reforms explicitly take into account the power relations that exist within households, even thought it is overwhelmingly women who access and use public services to meet household needs, despite differences in women’s societal position across regions of the world. Women tend to have greater responsibility in the household division of labour for education, health, clothing and food of the members.[3]
This RAU study sought to understand why women, being the majority of voters, were under-represented in the day-to-day activities of the councils. The study also examined women’s perspective on their understanding of the roles, responsibilities as well as the functionality of councils.
The RAU study was carried out in two phases. Phase I was primarily to understand what the women understood by the following questions;
(i)      Who is a citizen?
(ii)     How do female citizens want to be governed?
(iii)    How are they currently engaging with their local authorities?
(iv)    How do they want to be engaged?
(v)     How does service delivery impact social justice and how can female citizens hold their leaders accountable for service delivery?
Phase II was to give the women feedback on the findings of the focus group discussions (FGDs) held in Phase I and to give them a platform to present their issues to their respective councillors. This was also to observe if the women would be confident to raise all the issues they had talked about in the FGDs. It was also to highlight to the women and the councillors the legal definitions of the roles and responsibilities of councillors and councils.
Women when asked about their rights as citizens, indicated that they were well versed with their right to education, health, participation in politics, the right to support a political party of choice, the right to access clean water and electricity, right to life, right to shelter,  vote, and the right to freedom of movement.  However the women cited that although these rights existed many did not enjoy them as many violations still existed.
The study also made it clear that service delivery had a huge impact on the lives of all women in the different communities. The challenges were felt by women across the political divide and what came out clearly is that there is a critical need for leadership that addresses all the challenges faced by the community. It also became evident that it is very important to provide a platform for the women to interact with their leaders so that they could articulate their grievances in a space which they felt was safe and none threatening. It was also important for councillors to explain to the women what their duties were and how women could continue to engage with them.
There is a need for existing participatory mechanisms to improve the quality of citizen participation in local government.
*Report and research undertaken by Caroline Kache, Researcher at RAU.
Assistance with the literature review - Tony Reeler, Senior Researcher at RAU.

[1]  A Review Of Parliamentary Scorecards In Africa, Hon. John Bosley, ACBF Working Paper No. 14, September 2007

[2] Empowerment Through Local Citizenship, Catherine Dom (Mokoro) OECD

[3]  Invisible Agents: Women in Service Delivery Reforms, Eleanor MacPherson

In this brief article Derek Matyszak looks at the legal issues around the arrest of a Prosecutor-General, and not Mr.Tomana in particluar,and suggests that legislative change is required to attend to this situation.

In the past decade, liberation movements have come under increasing scrutiny from political scientists for their adherence to a sense of entitlement to government, and a generally hostile attitude towards opposition groups.
This paper is provoking a discussion that starts with the question: Is there a propensity amongst former liberation movements for resorting to violence in dealing with challenges to their rule, and is this a feature of the ideological make up of liberation movements.

In this opinion editorial Derek Matyszak looks briefly at the Constitutional Court's recent judgment on Child Marriage, and while appaluding the removal of odious laws around child marriage from Zimbabwe's law, takes issue with how this was achieved, the reasoning of the Deputy Chief Justice, who wrote the judgment, and suggests a dangerous precedent has been set.

This is the executive summary of an article discussing General Notice 9 of 2016 - Minister Zhuwao's “Frameworks, Procedures and Guidelines for Implementing the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act. The paper discusses the effect of the General Notice, the legality of any new requirements and whether the Framework and Processes pertaining to Inidgenisation have been in any way clarified. The full paper is available, for a small fee, from the address given at the end of the summary.

In this op ed piece Tony Reeler looks at the proposed National Peace and Reconciliation Commission Act, pointing to various unconstitutionals aspects and examining the political thinking behind the Bill.


The ZANU PF Constitution contains no provisions relating to the tenure of the Party Vice-Presidents. Thus those seeking to remove Emmerson Mnangagwa from office will need to rely on political muscle to do so rather than constitutional processes. 

Several people have asked RAU to set out in simple terms the legal provisions which apply should President Mugabe, die, retire or become incapacitated. Here they are.
Derek Matyszak 30.11.15.

In June 2014 the former Vice President Joice Mujuru said: “We are declaring war against rape and sexual violence”. 
Speaking at the launch of the National Campaign against Rape and Sexual Abuse she also pointed out: “that although Zimbabwe has passed a number of laws ..... gaps still remain in the implementation of these laws and ensuring perpetrators are given deterrent sentences.”
Zimbabwe is noted for the array of strong policy frameworks and institutions that deal with sexual violence ranging from the new Constitution of Zimbabwe, the Criminal Law Codification and Reform Act, the Domestic Violence Act, Sexual Offences Act, through to the the Anti Domestic Violence Council, the Adult Rape Clinic, and the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) Victim Friendly Units.  Nonetheless, statistics from the Zimbabwe Republic Police indicate that female rape and sexual violence is on the increase. According to ZRP statistics, a total of 3 571 adult women and 7 411 female juveniles were raped from 2012 to the first quarter of 2014.
In addition to the statistical information from the ZRP, it was noted that the number of the number of sexual violence cases being reported in the newspapers had also increased, more cases are being brought before the national courts, and local organisations working on issues related to girls and women are reporting an increase in sexual violence.
Based on this information, the Research and Advocacy Unit (RAU) undertook a study to collect data on all cases related to sexual violence heard in the Regional Magistrates Court from December 2013 to May 2015. The aim was to determine the outcome of cases heard in the Court, and to obtain a profile of the complainants and the offenders. 
Upon receiving permission from the Judicial Services Commission, RAU was able to access court records from the Regional Magistrates Court and was also allowed to place an officer from RAU, at the Regional Magistrates Court records office for a week, to record the relevant information pertaining to cases involving sexual violence.
From a complete set of 754 records from the Regional Magistrate’s Court, a cleaned set of data was obtained for 623 records: this was 54 from 2013, 399 from 2014, and 176 from 2015. The demographics of the data revealed that 96% of victims of sexual offences were female and 4% of the victims were male. In the majority of cases heard before the courts, the perpetrators were male (99%) with very few female perpetrators (1%). The average age of the victims was 16 years and the average age of the perpetrators was 29 years of age. A majority of the cases seen involved minors, but, whether they were minors or adults, the victims were females.
The data from the Magistrate’s Court shows a preponderance of perpetrators being charged with offences against minors, and a trend towards older perpetrators preying on increasingly younger women, including minors.  Apart from the extremely distressing pattern of very old men committing offences against very young girls, there is also a trend in the court statistics for greater percentages of minors being charged with sexual offences, and mostly against much younger girls.
Nature of offences
The nature of offences heard in the courts ranged from rape, attempted rape, accessory to rape, indecent assault, aggravated indecent assault, sexual intercourse with a minor and sexual intercourse with mentally incompetent persons. The court records revealed that rape (86%) was the most common sexual offence that was heard in the Regional Magistrates Court. This was followed by aggravated indecent assault (9.4%), indecent assault (4%) and sexual intercourse with a minor (3.3%). There were very few reported cases of domestic violence in the form of physical abuse (0.5%). When the data was disaggregated according to type of offences between the Under 18 and Over 18 age groups, there was no marked difference from the previous findings; rape came out as the highest reported form of sexual offence in both age groups.
Of the cases that were brought before the Regional Magistrates’ Court for hearing, 40% were handed down with a not guilty verdict, while 26% of the cases were given a guilty verdict. The remaining cases were either declined for prosecution, suspended, withdrawn and referred to court for committal. The status of the other cases that had not yet been completed ranged from further remand refused, accused deceased or the cases were to be continued. However, it should be noted that 57% were either acquitted or had charges withdrawn.
The average length of sentence given to offenders found guilty was 14 years. Magistrates handed out much stiffer sentences to sex offenders over 18 years than to those that were under 18 years. Adult offenders (over 18 years) got sentences of 14 years on average, whilst those under 18 years got sentences of 6 years on average, and very young offenders received corporal punishment, counselling and an option to pay a fine. The exception here for the minor offenders was for stiffer sentences to be imposed where the victim was very young. The profile is thus very similar to what would be seen in most countries: stiffer sentences for more serious offences, and distinctions made between adult and minor offenders.
In conclusion:

  • The court data clearly shows rape to be the predominant problem of sexual abuse brought to the justice system, with indecent assault and aggravated indecent assault the next most common problem;
  • Secondly, the victims are overwhelmingly female and the perpetrators overwhelmingly male;
  • Thirdly, there seems to be a very low conviction rate, but this is much higher where the victim is a minor and more so where the minor is very young.  The high rates of acquittals deserve careful examination by future research in order to separate out the factors that underpin this trend for adult offenders in the main;
  • Fourthly, sentencing seems consonant with best practices. Sentences are generally very severe and appropriate to the circumstances as far as it can be determined from the data. Sentences are much more severe where the victim is a child and the perpetrator is an adult, but also more severe where the perpetrator is a minor and the victim a very young girl.

Finally, it is clear that considerably more research needs to be done in understanding how sexual abuse is being dealt with by the justice system. A beginning would be careful analysis of the court records for all the cases described in this report in order to develop a detailed understanding of the reasons why prosecutions succeed or fail. There is also a need to understand prevalence and incidence of sexual abuse, drawing on the data from both the justice system, describing those that get to court, and the health system, describing those that seek assistance. This will complement the existing survey data.
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