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Archive for May, 2011

It’s tough to be a woman in media in Zimbabwe

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Tuesday, May 31st, 2011 by Upenyu Makoni-Muchemwa

When I told my father I wanted to be a journalist he looked at me in shock and said, ‘But women journalists are loose…are you telling me that this is what you want for yourself?’ Never one to back down from a fight, that conversation ended in a fierce argument. My mother knew better than to intervene. I couldn’t understand how my father, with whom I watched Christiane Amanpour on CNN and Haru Mutasa on Al Jazeera, and who would sit with me and critique interview and reporting styles could possibly believe that journalism amounted to prostitution.

Having been in the field for a while now, I understand his position. Zimbabwe’s women journalists, more than women in any other profession, I think, suffer intolerable harassment and discrimination. It comes with the job. It really doesn’t matter which medium or establishment a woman works for, sexual harassment appears to be an industry standard. Scant attention is drawn to the sexual scandals that plague Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings; I suppose it’s a case of the pot calling the kettle black. In 2009 numerous interns and women journalists filed harassment complaints against the then News and Current Affairs Manager Tarzen Mandizvidza and Reporters Manager O Brian Rwafa. A female respondent to a Gender Links survey regarding women in Zimbabwe’s media observed, ‘Where issues of sexual harassment or sexist language are concerned, women who raise these issues are often not taken seriously and in particular case of harassment, male bosses sympathise with those accused of harassment and at times try to underplay the charge at hand.’

This is aptly demonstrated by ZBH CEO, Happison Muchechetere who, at the time threatened to fire the women and labelled them ‘prostitutes’. ZBH sexual harassment issues are ongoing. This month the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists Secretary General, Foster Dongozi, told The Zimbabwean that there were escalating reports of female journalists being harassed on the job, especially at the state broadcaster where bosses were allegedly sexually harassing female reporters for roles as news readers.

New players in the media industry have also adopted the practice of objectifying and discriminating against women. Recently, Sokwanele reported that young female college graduates have lodged complaints that they are being asked on dates by some of the editors of the newly licensed media houses if they want to be employed.

The issues plaguing women in media are not confined to sexual harassment. A 2009 study conducted by Gender Links as part of the Glass Ceilings: Women and Men in Southern African Media Survey found that although half of Zimbabwe’s media houses had gender parity targets, there were six times as many men as women in Zimbabwe media houses surveyed. This is surprising considering that women constitute the majority of media and communication studies students. The survey also found that men were more likely to be given higher remuneration and better working conditions than women.

Moreover, while women in Zimbabwean media houses are under-represented in most areas of work, (constituting 17% of editorial departments), they are found in higher proportions in support roles in areas considered “women’s work”. These include advertising and marketing (40%) and human resources (58%).

Fed up with this state of affairs, female media practitioners issued a statement this year in March, demanding an end to these unfair practices. Again very little notice was paid to it by the media in general, almost as if in collusion. The media is very quick to point out the failings of the government, but is selectively shortsighted when its own practices are corrupt and degrading.

Slut Walks spread like wildfire

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Tuesday, May 31st, 2011 by Elizabeth Nyamuda

Sexual harassment is one of the world’s greatest bugs, that has overstayed its welcome. Sexual harassment and rape is a crime, which is perpetrated worldwide, on young and old women, decently or indecently dressed. Stories of rape cases of minors are being reported in the media and the most recent in Zimbabwe is of a 69 year-old man who raped a 14 year-old girl. This was not his first offence.

Women in the US have taken to the streets to protest verbal and physical violence against women. These protests were stirred by an insensitive statement made by Toronto police constable Michael Sanguinetti who remarked that women should avoid dressing “like sluts” in order to prevent themselves from being raped or otherwise victimised.

Termed Slut Walks, the protests began in Canada and have spread to Australia and other parts of the world. The theme of the protests is women castigating the sexual harassment they face as a result of their type of clothing.

With women across the world staging protests against sexual harassment, reportedly perpetrated by what they wear and how they behave, are Zimbabwean women going to join in the campaign?

Protests & demonstrations in Spain, France

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Tuesday, May 31st, 2011 by Amanda Atwood

A subscriber shared this information with us on current events in Europe:

Please pay some attention to the peaceful revolution that is taking place in Spain, France and elsewhere. 3000 people were teargassed in Paris yesterday outside the Bastille. It’s the first time in years people are waking up and in just 2 weeks the movement has already come up with proposals the politicians will have to listen to. There are meetings in the main squares which we are trying to decentralise into districts. People of all ages though a lot of young people. Small & large assemblies which are slow but give us all an idea of what a real democracy would be about. The international media are trying their best to ignore it. We want worldwide demonstrations & camps against inequality & lack of political representation of citizens worldwide. Date of reference is 15 May, next 15 June and there’s talk of trying to get a worldwide demonstration happening on 15 August.

- Here is a link to Plaza del Sol, Madrid
- Read more about these events here

Wanted: A revolution of conscience

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Tuesday, May 31st, 2011 by Amanda Atwood

Is apathy Zimbabwe’s worst enemy?

Tendai Marima’s Mail & Guardian Thought Leader blog makes some very good points. You can read some excerpts here:

Stories of villagers being terrorised by soldiers patrolling the diamond fields of Marange in eastern Zimbabwe are enough to scare off any revolutionaries dreaming of a Chimurenga-style uprising. But it’s not only the very real obstacles of violent repression that could prevent Zimbabweans from fully catching the protest fever currently doing the rounds on the continent and the Middle East. The nation suffers from a grave illness: apathy.

It’s difficult to cite books or social scientists diagnosing this to be the Zimbabwean condition but personal lived experience suggests this is the case. To an extent, academics like Brian Kagoro and Glen Mpani, who have explored the reasons for Zimbabwean passivity and indifference, confirm this. In their respective works, both researchers argue that the post-colonial condition of political apathy has its roots in decades of living under a one-party state. The multiple interlocking burdens of living under an increasingly authoritarian, economically regressive regime have resulted in a population which “normalises the abnormal” as a coping strategy. In other words, it’s become so normal to hear of opposition members being beaten and jailed that it’s hard to be concerned. Indifference makes it easier to be dismissive and say “it doesn’t happen everywhere”. Because of this standard response, its sometimes difficult for the “law-abiding” rich and poor to connect their economic woes to the absurd imprisonment and torture of someone or the shortage of medicines and medical expertise in hospitals.

If any lessons are to be learnt from the Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions by Zimbabweans, it is that dictators can be overthrown by the people; security and stability be damned. But before any fantasies of popular uprising or ousting Zanu by the ballot can be organised by serious activists and non one-hit wonder online revolutionaries or used as campaign rhetoric by a formidable opposition party (yet to be seen) Zimbabwe needs a zenga zenga revolution, to remix Gaddafi’s words.

A revolution of conscience in every city, every street, every house, every village and every hut. Zenga zenga; every nook and cranny must be cleansed of the viral strains of apathy that allow evil to flourish and culminate in an inability to equate human rights with the right to pursue prosperity and live in a relatively stable country. If Zimbabweans truly want a change in the status quo or “no other but Zanu, but without the violence” as some desire, then it begins with this critical mass realisation. Legitimate desires for stability and prosperity can never justify indifference towards the unjust persecution of another Zimbabwean. Just as the apolitical urban middle and working classes deserve to live in peace, so too do the villagers of Marange. As do praying parishioners. And White Zimbabwean, Zimbabwean Indian and Nigerian traders and business owners harassed in the name of indigenisation. As Zimbabwe continues to discover the highs and lows of 31 years of independence, may the spirits of past liberators bless her with the realisation that indifference to the suffering of others can be cured at the church of born-again humanitarians by St Conscience, the Empathic One.

Read more

Mugabe, the travelling man

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Tuesday, May 31st, 2011 by Marko Phiri

Does our president ever stay in his own country? Silly, but well, it has been asked before, and I am asking it again this week.

A few years ago he was panned for trotting the globe, traveling the world and cartoonists had a field day as he was saddled with the unflattering sobriquet that borrowed the name of that well-travelled explorer Vasco da Gama.

Today our president “arrived” from Nigeria where he had gone to witness the swearing in of President Goodluck Jonathan. A few days ago he had “arrived” from Addis Abbaba, “arrived” from Namibia, “arrived” from Uganda, a few days before that “arrived” from…

Of course as “Head of State and Government and Commander-in-Chief” who wants the best of everything without regard of that starving Makokoba, Madlambuzi, Mhondoro granny you would expect this.

Yet Biti has already complained about the country ill-affording the “pleasure trips” of government officials with the poor taxpayer bearing the costs.

Of course it predictably will be claimed that the Dear President travels on official state business or whatever, but then we all know about other presidents who skip any jaunts and have made less foreign travel one of the defining  matrices of their tenure.

I liked it when Karikoka Kaseke – for the first time perhaps – opened his mouth and spoke sense when he complained recently that it is unfair to expect the impoverished taxpayers who will never in their lifetime board a plane to continue bailing out Air Zimbabwe when it is rich people who travel by air. And by rich, you just have to read “government officials!”

If we are to count the trips “His Excellency” has made since the beginning of 2011, keeping in mind of course the “medical tourism” to Asia, you have to seek Biti’s opinion about the justification of these travels.

Perhaps Biti might as well retort, “why ask me? Ask him!”

But we ask, how much have the taxpayers forked so far as we hit the half-year mark? The Singapore trips alone are already known to cost the taxpayer USD3 million according to press reports. Go figure.

State fails to sustain spurious treason charges

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Tuesday, May 31st, 2011 by Amanda Atwood

Hopewell Gumbo shared this update on the case of Munyaradzi Gwisai of the International Socialist Organisation (Zimbabwe) and five others who had been charged with treason. In a victory for the accused, the treason charges have been dropped and the bail conditions have been relaxed.

Monday May 30, 2011, at 1030hrs, our application for the relaxation of bail conditions was heard before Justice Kudya. We had sort the return of our passports and the removal of stringent reporting conditions. The judge has concerted to the altering of reporting conditions and has granted us to report once every last Friday of the month a major leap from the three days a week we were yoked to. The state has also indicated that the Treason charge has been dropped and would prefer one of Subverting a Constitutional Government when the trial opens on the 18th of July 2011 in the Harare Regional Magistrate’s court. The judge however did not grant the return of passports and ruled that the court can only do that in the event of the production of credible itinerary for intended travel. This we will abide by and we feel the struggle continues as we go towards trial and seek ultimate freedom. But ultimate freedom will only come when the full trial is completed, but the solidarity and support cdes all over the world have given will continue to drive our will to fight oppression and is key in smashing the equally spurious Subversion of Constitutional Government Charges. Do not tire in fighting for total freedom through the actions you have continued to organize.