The alleged torture and rape of the MDC Alliance women last week has outraged the country, but it is not an isolated incident. This brief RAU report demonstrates how pervasive Politically Motivated Rape (PMR) has been
The coup in November 2017 brought a brief period of euphoria for the citizens of Zimbabwe. The hope that there was indeed a “New Dispensation” were rapidly dashed, with very little in the way of significant (and expected) reforms, continued economic decline, and yet another disputed election. This was followed by the shocking deployment of the military on the streets, both in the immediate aftermath of the 2018 elections and the disturbances in January 2019. Even more serious was the deepening economic crisis, and the prospect of serious hunger in the country brought about by both drought and Cyclone Idai. The Zimbabwean citizenry in 2020 was in its most vulnerable position since independence in 1980.When countries experience economic and political turmoil, the consequences are usually qualitatively worse for women and their families. This is made worse, at least in many developing countries, by the fact that women are generally grossly under-represented in policy-making bodies and governments. Zimbabwe is no exception. As was seen in the 2018 elections, women are in no place to determine their future. There were no changes in the number of women directly elected to the House of Assembly, women were an increased minority (compared with 2013) in the candidates selected by the political parties, and women candidates received a paltry percentage of the total votes (RAU. 2018). This occurred against the background of a national campaign to increase their representation, driven under the auspices of the Women’s Manifesto and the 50/50 campaign.
Zimbabwe, despite its deceptive appearance to the naïve outsider, is a country beset by Organised Violence and Torture (OVT) for many decades. It was brought into being by a colonial war, suffered violence and displacement through the 70 years of settler domination, liberated through a civil war, suffered through low-intensity conflicts in the 80s, and a long, sustained period of episodic violence has characterised the country since 1999 to date. It is therefore hardly surprising that this has resulted in great and continuing suffering for a very large proportion of its people.It is interesting that the new country of Zimbabwe came into being just as mental health professionals were beginning to realise the pernicious consequences of OVT. The first official classification of psychological disorders due to trauma, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) came in 1980. A decade later, in Southern Africa, the impetus for dealing with these problems came in 1990 in an important conference held in Harare. This conference led to a sudden growth of organisations across Africa, paralleling similar growth around the world, with a local organisation, the Amani Trust, being amongst the first of these, together with what became the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR) in Johannesburg and the Trauma Centre for Survivors of Violence and Torture in Cape Town. There are now 150 such centres in 75 countries across the world, attesting to the importance that health professionals now accord the health consequences of organised violence and torture.
This policy brief on mental health in Zimbabwe seeks to highlight the need for policymakers to advocate for policy change in the provision of Mental Health care services in prison to ensure the protection and promotion of human rights of people in contact and in conflict with the law.