Kubatana.net ~ an online community of Zimbabwean activists

Archive for October, 2008

The life of a pregnant woman in Zimbabwe

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Friday, October 31st, 2008 by Fungisai Sithole

Because of the challenges and difficulties I am exposed to on a daily basis I wake up with pains all over my body. My body is mostly swollen and weak. My doctor tells me that my blood pressure levels have gone high. She tells me that I need to rest, but I cannot afford rest, I cannot afford to be sick. Not in this environment where I am subjected to economical, social, political and psychological frustrations. My bulging stomach has become representative of the problems I endure on a daily basis and an antithesis of the joys of womanhood and every growth of my tummy is an increase in my pain, frustrations and agony. I long for joys of motherhood but the environment I live in makes sure I can only long and dream of how it feels to be pregnant in an environment where I can afford the basics – a reality that remains an elusive quest.

Every day I wake up with worries and serious issues of concern regarding my pregnancy. I am employed but nothing seems to balance and work for me. I have to think of ways of raising money for my next appointment with my gynaecologist and for the hospital delivery charges and the doctor’s delivery fee. All these are charged in US Dollars. I have even attempted to apply to the Reserve Bank for the authority to withdraw cash in excess for the 50 000 daily limit but with no success as the whole financial system is corrupt and dysfunctional. Every day that passes brings an element of fear and anxiety as I still do not know when and how I will be able to raise the monies.

The doctor and the hospital fees are just one of the few elements I have got to worry about. Most of my clothes can’t fit anymore. I need new big clothes to accommodate my growing body and for my baby. The clothes are very expensive. I move around shops daily hoping to find something affordable but have no luck. I have money in the bank but can only withdraw fifty thousand dollars a day which only covers my one way transport costs to work. The cheapest clothes I can get are around 700 to 800 thousand dollars and I am expected to pay for them in cash. The shops do not accept cheques or transfers. The prices change on a daily basis and have no idea how I am expected to raise such figures a day. In Zimbabwe being pregnant has grown to be some form of punishment whose fine no one seems to know.

The sad part is dealing with my cravings. The environment in Zimbabwe just wipes away the joys of womanhood. Everything is a frustration for me. I can’t seem to find things I crave for and if I do the price just thwarts the excitement completely. It is an unfathomable task to afford a basic healthy diet something I need seriously in such circumstances. Sometimes my appetite just fades as eating the same vegetables and sadza everyday is a pain to me. I lead a miserable life and cannot wait for the day I will deliver and look at the new challenges.

With my mind dawdled with the challenges and frustrations of pregnancy, after work I get to a home without electricity and water. I now have to fetch water from a nearby school borehole and make fire as no one knows when the electricity will be back. I now view pregnancy as a burden and the burden is made worse by the miserable living conditions I am expected to endure every day. I dread the day my baby will be born in this environment and I shudder to think if he or she will be able to survive in this mire.

Feminist outrage of the week

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Friday, October 31st, 2008 by Amanda Atwood

The Kubatana team went to a public meeting last night in Harare. The speakers: four men. The moderator: a man. The audience: over 100 men, and maybe 30 women. Audience members who asked questions: Men again. Why are there so few women panelists and moderators at public meetings organised by civil society in Zimbabwe? What can be done to ensure that more women attend these meetings, and participate in them?

Economy of litter

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Thursday, October 30th, 2008 by Susan Pietrzyk

I recently read Time Magazine’s special issue on Heroes of the Environment. More than I expected to be the case, I found the heroes inspiring. It’s fascinating to see 30 examples of what people all over the globe do to protect the little patch of earth they live on as well as the earth we all share. I can’t pick a favorite hero because the first one was my favorite, then I read the next one and that was my favorite and so on.

I did wonder if it was by accident that the only two black heroes happened to appear one after the other. The first was Liberian Silas Kpanan’Ayoung Siakor who states the mission of his NGO is to look at environmental issues “from a human perspective. It’s not about greenery. It’s about people whose lives have been affected by the unsustainable and destructive exploitation of resources.” Siakor was able to draw attention to President Charles Taylor’s use of logging profits to fund his war, which, in turn, was integral in the 2003 UN ban on the export of Liberian timber and in developing the war-crimes charges against Taylor.

The second black hero is Van Jones, an African American, who is working to stop what he calls “eco-apartheid”. The Time reporter describes Jones as the “vanguard of a necessary change in the green movement. In the past, environmentalism in the US has been a mainly white and white-collar phenomenon, one that had little resonance among working class and minorities.” Jones’ organization is predicated on the idea that building a green economy could represent a job creation program for minorities and the working class.

Both of these heroes interestingly direct attention to the devastating ways political corruption, political violence, class differences, and poverty disproportionately affect the human condition. Issues we tend to think of more through the lens of economics as opposed to through the lens of environmentalism. In Zimbabwe, the human condition is suffering terribly. Journalists, analysts, bloggers, and passengers on combies are quick to speak about this through the lens of economics. For example, the introduction of US$ products is a hot topic and most speak about this in very technical economic language: it’s messing things up. I mean how can it be good to have an economy that’s partially US$ and partially ZWD. It’s not right, the volume of US$ a Spar clerk will handle in one day only to then receive their salary in ZWD.

As heroes of the environment, Silas Kpanan’Ayoung Siakor and Van Jones help us better understand the full impact of US$ products in Zimbabwe. The emergence of US$ products is the result of political corruption and they exacerbate class differences and poverty. Equally, US$ products are impacting the environment in Zimbabwe. Walk 100 metres on any street in Harare and I guarantee you will see 100 empty beer cans. That litter did not exist when this country was producing and selling locally brewed bottled beer. I mean who would toss a bottle with a deposit attached to it. In the end, the economy of Zimbabwe is unjustly sending people to the poor house and the economy of Zimbabwe litters likes nobody’s business.

In the chair

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Wednesday, October 29th, 2008 by Bev Clark

oh for a valium. a scotch. a well dog. a not so fucked up country. and a beach.

That’s a text message I just sent a friend after a visit to the dentist when I was feeling bleak.

Walking up the stairs to Dr Paul’s rooms I have say that I got a bit anxious. The sound of generators filled the air. And I began to wonder if they would need to refuel at a crucial moment whilst I was In The Chair.

Usually Dr Paul’s sound system belts out sexy rumba but instead, in an effort to lift the nurses spirits, he’d succumbed to one of those jazzed up Christmas cds. So I found myself tapping my toes to ABBA singing that the New Year is going to be a really good one.

When it comes to drills and masks I’m prone to panic attacks so I took along a copy of The New York Review of Books that I’d just received in the mail. I thought I might calm myself down and cheer myself up by looking through the personal ads. I was momentarily side tracked by an advert that I’d respond to given half a chance:

Beautiful, quick-witted optimist seeks fifty-something left-winger with a strong sense of humor and enough money to buy her a martini from time to time

Being quick-witted and optimistic are pretty much mandatory for surviving Zimbabwe. Maybe we’d be a match made in a failed state.

Entitlement, gender inequality and HIV/AIDS

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Wednesday, October 29th, 2008 by Catherine Makoni

The account by Beatrice Tonhodzayi of the experiences of an HIV positive man raises a lot of issues which l feel should be discussed more than is done in the diary. I will start by saying upfront that in this critique l am taking a woman centred approach to the issues raised. In particular, I have always been concerned that in a lot of the discourse around infection within a marital relationship, there seems to be an inordinate amount of emphasis on people not seeking to blame their sexual partners, rather being exhorted to “just accept the result and move on”.

I am worried that Tamuka does seem to have grasped the full significance of his actions and certainly does not seem prepared to take full responsibility for his actions while he was married. He seems puzzled that his wife will not talk to him as she believes he is responsible for infecting her with HIV. One does not get the sense that he understands what the HIV positive diagnosis means for her. There is no indication that he has any empathy for his wife. He has not put himself in her shoes and sought to understand from her perspective what it must feel like dealing with this diagnosis. I am sure a lot of women who are similarly infected share the same bewilderment, anger and despair as Tamuka’s wife. This is because for a long time the message was and to an extent still is, abstinence or chastity until marriage and then faithfulness to your one husband. So assuming you have honoured this blue print for avoiding infection, it has to come as a shock when you discover that despite having followed this advice as given by your mother, your aunt, your teacher, your church, your community health worker and even that NGO that is so respected, you still find yourself infected. The icing on the cake is that if this happens to you, you should just accept this diagnosis and move on, because that is the nature of the marital bed.

For me the worst but most important point in Tamuka’s account is his statement that:

“Yes, l may have cheated a few times in this marriage but nothing out of the ordinary. I am definitely not the ‘Mr. Harare’ that my wife, her friends and family are now portraying me to be. I am just a regular, ordinary man who strayed from the marital bed a few times.”

This is where the crux of the matter is, is it not? His statement exposes the sense of entitlement that a lot of men have when it comes to cheating on their spouses and other intimate partners. Tamuka believes his infidelity is acceptable as it is “nothing out of the ordinary”. After all he did it just a “few times”. So to take his argument to its logical conclusion, it is okay to cheat “just a few times”? Is that what the “ordinary man” out there believes? That they are entitled to cheat because that is what “ordinary men” do? This begs the question, just how many times do you have to be unfaithful before you run the risk of getting infected with either an STI or HIV? Does one get a merit award if they cheat a few times as opposed to a lot of times? Is there a measure for cheating, where some acts of infidelity are more acceptable than others? It is interesting that the interviewer never challenged Tamuka’s statement above.

Isn’t this part of the problem sub-Saharan Africa has with HIV infection, when you have an intersection between gender inequality and the HI Virus? The problem is we have a society that views male infidelity as a normal expression of masculinity. This finds expression in some writers regurgitating without critiquing opinions that men allegedly express that they set up “small houses” because they will be dissatisfied with their wives at home. I will argue that a lot of men who cheat, do so because they can. They do it because like Tamuka, they believe that they are just being “men”. It is an expression of the patriarchal power that they have. Unfortunately in an age of HIV and AIDS, these masculinities are toxic masculinities. That single sexual encounter can result in HIV infection. You can get infected whether or not you are a “Mr Harare”. Read more

Driving the conversation

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Tuesday, October 28th, 2008 by Amanda Atwood

The Kubatana team was in Johannesburg recently for MobileActive08. As we moved around the city, we spoke with taxi drivers about the ANC split, Xenophobia, Zimbabwe, and other issues.

Here are a few snippets of our conversations:

Troublemakers, they kind of respect the taxi drivers. For other people, they have no respect. But for taxi drivers, they kind of leave us alone. They know we can make our own violence.


People must tell the truth. It will heal other people. Actually, that will teach people to learn, and forgive. Otherwise, when it’s not done, I will see a Shona person, and think you’re a part of Mugabe. You killed our people. You know, things like that. But if there is TRC [a Truth and Reconciliation process], then I think people will be able to see, okay, fine. This is what happened. Let’s forget about it.


You’ll never get a settlement in Zimbabwe. You know why? Because they’re making too much money. They’ve got 25-tonne trucks travelling up and down from Zimbabwe to Jo’burg and Jo’burg to Zimbabwe everyday. With all the food in it you want to eat. All the appliances you want to buy. Those people are my customers like you sit there. I ride them to the trucks. I fetch them from the trucks. It’s completely shocking.


There is no such thing as a Rainbow Nation. You must know where you come from and know where you’re going. If you’re a Zulu you’re a Zulu. If you’re a Xhosa you’re a Xhosa. Now (interim president Kgalema) Motlanthe is more of a rainbow person. He can socialize with anyone. Which is not right. We need someone who is either a Xhosa, or a Zulu.


You know that woman that they say Zuma raped? It’s untrue. She was involved with Zuma for a very long time. Zuma was actually planning to marry her as one of his wives. So, they blame the Intelligence Minister. That might be true, that he tried to convince that lady, to pay her money so that she can threaten Zuma. That’s what she did! Those questions were asked in court – and she couldn’t manage to answer them. There were police outside, she had a phone, and there was a house phone. And you wake up in the morning, take a bath, make food, fry eggs, you eat, make phone calls. You know? The door’s unlocked. And you come up later and say you’ve been raped. Why didn’t she go out and report at the same time, when police were outside Zuma’s house. Besides that, she should have called. Or wake up in the morning and go and make a statement at the police station.