General on Gender

This is the second report on the issue of women’s participation in local governance. The first
report, Phase I, examined women’s views on and understanding of local government. This
report concluded that there was need to increase women’s participation. The current report
examined the extent of participation between women in local communities and their local
For Phase II, a series of meetings were held between the women from four chosen
communities and some of their local councillors. The findings of the previous research were
made available to both parties, and the women were encouraged to present their reactions to
the findings using a variety of interactive games and dramas. This was done in order to
minimise confrontation and to facilitate open communication. The techniques seemed very
successful, and were enjoyed by all. Following the presentation of the women’s reactions to
the Phase I findings, the councillors were then encouraged to respond.

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.

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.

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 women of Zimbabwe have had varying experiences with national law enforcement agencies and many of them are unpleasant. These experiences are the same regardless of whether the women are activists or not, but perhaps worse for female activists. Police officers have been responsible for some of the most serious human rights and rule of law violations in Zimbabwe today. Police brutality in Zimbabwe extends to opposition politicians, students, trade unionists, journalists and members of civil society organisations, this paper however focuses on women. Women have encountered torture, assault, harassment, intimidation, and imprisonment at the hands of the police, who act in breach of their professional and legal obligations.

The police have a responsibility to respect human rights, but the fate of women activists, especially those from Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) members, tells a different story. In a series of reports from 2007, WOZA demonstrated the perils of both being an activist and female, showing the kinds of abuse and the consequences of abuse at the hands of the police. From a sample of 1983 WOZA members, 42% reported assault, 33% reported physical torture, 64% reported humiliating and degrading treatment, and 78% reported political threats. Many violations occurred during the course of protests where the police were the perpetrators, but it was also the case that equally many took place in police custody. The female members of the NCA have also suffered the same fate; as they stated in a 2009 study, 70% of the perpetrators of violence were from various branches of the police force. Assault was the most common violation, mentioned by 80% of these members, and the weapons used in the assaults were baton sticks and booted feet, part of the uniform of the police.

There is a popular saying, which originated in South Africa when the women were fighting
apartheid, which says
wathint’ mfuziwathint’ imbokodo (you strike a woman, you strike a rock), a
phrase that has come to symbolise women’s strength. The saying has significance for women in
Zimbabwe today. The women in Zimbabwe are realising that they are living in communities
where politics has taken on the face of violence. Women are the majority of victims, helpless in
many cases to protect themselves and their children.

Women in Zimbabwe occupy a central role within their families as child bearers, child rearers, and family care‐givers. However, their voices are largely silenced and rendered invisible or irrelevant in the public domain. Notwithstanding the proliferation of legal instruments that address women’s right to participate in decision‐making ‐ to which Zimbabwe is a party – Zimbabwean women have still not achieved equality in decisionmaking. Under the current Lancaster House Constitution, Zimbabwe practises a dualist system
where the domestication of international and regional legal norms into local legislation is concerned. Section 111B of the Constitution provides that

“(1) Except as otherwise provided by this Constitution or by or under an Act of Parliament, any convention, treaty or agreement acceded to, concluded or executed by or under the authority of the President with one or more foreign states or governments or international organisations—(a) shall be subject to approval by Parliament; and (b) shall not form part of the law of Zimbabwe unless it has been incorporated into the law by or under an Act of Parliament.

This means that, although Zimbabwe may ratify international and regional instruments, such instruments will only have legal force of law if the Zimbabwean parliament drafts and passes a law that incorporates the provisions of these legal instruments. Ratification alone is not enough to give these norms legal force in Zimbabwe. Hence individuals cannot approach the courts of Zimbabwe to demand the implementation of provisions in international and regional instruments despite the fact that Zimbabwe ratified these instruments and agreed to be bound by their provisions. The promulgation of laws incorporating these provisions is also fraught with its own challenges, the most basic of which is that lawmaking in Zimbabwe is a cumbersome process.

This report addresses a fundamental issue that most people are aware of, but rarely give much
attention to until they are personally affected; acquiring identity documents and citizenship. It is
common knowledge that there are many challenges that Zimbabwean citizens face in accessing
identity documents. It is also widely known that the prominence of the ‘alien’ status in 2002 through
the amendment of the Citizenship of Zimbabwe Act (Chapter 4.1) has seen some people losing their
Zimbabwean citizenship; forced to identify themselves as other nationalities to which their
descendants belonged such as Malawian or Mozambican.

This report is based on the views and experiences of a total of 160 Zimbabwean women from 9
different provinces of the country. It details women’s perceptions of identity, the challenges they
face in accessing identity documents and citizenship status as well as the consequences that losing or
failing to access such documents and status has on the quality of their lives as well as the lives of
their children. It also analyses the role that the Registrar General’s (RG) office plays in making
identity documents and citizenship inaccessible entitlements to the general public.

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