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Author Archive

State Witness

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Thursday, July 15th, 2010 by Mgcini Nyoni

As state witness
I told the court
that the one saying
they had been beaten
Had done the beating
in Uzumba
I have never been
to Uzumba
They said if I didn’t
say what they told me
I would get more than
broken ribs.
Don’t call me a coward
One held my hand
the other held my other hand
A third crushed a log
into my ribs
A forth crushed my testicles
for good measure
As state witness
I told the court
that the one saying
their buttocks had been burnt
their homes had been burnt
and their wives raped
Were the ones
who had actually done those
horrible things.

- Copyright Mgcini Nyoni

Those who use condoms correctly and consistently please stand up

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Monday, June 14th, 2010 by Mgcini Nyoni

There is a lot of hype about the male circumcision issue. It is being hailed as the answer to the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Is it? I do not think so. On what assumptions is the success of the male circumcision program being based on?

Are those pushing the program assuming that an alarming number of men do not use condoms to begin with? Because if they believe that condoms are being used consistently and correctly, then there is no need to be trying to replace or ‘compliment’ something that has got a 99% chance of preventing infection with something with a 60% chance.

My opinion is that the male circumcision program will actually increase the rate of infection: When it comes to sexual matters, the human brain is feeble at best of times. The logic will be why wear a condom if I have just had a procedure that’s supposed to reduce my chances of getting infected. If it is insisted that one were a condom even after being circumcised, then what’s the point in being circumcised.

So we can only say male circumcision is a worthwhile intervention if we assume that a large number of men do not use condoms. Those who use condoms do not use them correctly and consistently:  Say a man is spending the whole night with a woman; he will wear a condom the first time around and remove it when he is done.  If he feels like having another he might wear another condom if she insists. But does he wear another condom if he wants to have another go at midnight, I don’t think so. And if he has been sleeping with the woman for a week?

Those who use condoms correctly and consistently please stand up.

What about the young man who has been dying to sleep with a beautiful local girl for months. A chance presents itself and there are no condoms around. Does he dash off to the shops fro a packet of condoms? And risk her changing her mind?

We have to admit that a lot of men are not using condoms or at least not correctly and no amount of shouting will ever change that. So male circumcision might save a few of them; after all 60% is better than 0%, trying to sell condoms and male circumcision at the same time sounds absurd to me.

We can only hope that the male circumcision program will not convince the few who were using condoms to stop using them altogether: Honestly, how many will actually think of the percentages? The message that a shocking number of men – and women will get, is that male circumcision prevents HIV infection and the proponents of the dubiously noble initiative do not intend that to the message. And HIV/AIDS messages should not be mind-boggling, like the one that says that people should use both contraceptive pill and the condom. The contraceptive pill is for married couples, Period! Asking a married couple to use condoms is expecting too much.

I hope the male circumcision program achieves its desired goals, whatever they are. Honestly it’s all a bit vague in my mind.

What could I have done?

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Wednesday, May 12th, 2010 by Mgcini Nyoni

In Zimbabwe I recently traveled in the back of pick-up truck with several other people.  At one point the truck stopped to pick up a man along the route to town.  In his attempt to get onto the truck, he held onto a woman who was seated next to me. She protested; she did not fancy any man besides her husband holding her shoulder.

There was an angry retort from the man, who felt that the situation called for a suspension of what he termed ‘stupid and immature’ moral stands. There was a chorus of condemnation of the woman; with some saying it was the likes of her who pretended to be saintly in public, but were in reality, ‘snakes’. As much as it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to rape a woman.

I was not happy with the way the helpless woman’s rights were being violated and I said as much.  It was well within the woman’s rights to choose who held her shoulder and who did not; the circumstances did not matter. She did not want her shoulder held by another man, end of story.

Why should anyone ever say, what could I have done? The doctor asked me to strip me naked, what could I have done? You could have said you are not comfortable and you will not do it. I have heard people say it is backward for a woman to demand that a female nurse examine her. Well, it is within her rights to demand that a male nurse not touch her and that a male doctor not ask her to undress. It is well within her rights to be ‘backward’.

Malaysia recently introduced women only train coaches.  Those women who are not comfortable with harassment from men can travel in peace. Those who are okay with their bottoms being slapped and obscenities shouted at them are free to travel on the regular coaches. That is what I call upholding human rights!

Why should we see abuse of human rights only in the political sense; the burning of buttocks, burning of homes and so on. If someone is made uncomfortable in any way then a human right has been violated, it does not matter how many believe otherwise. Human rights, especially women’s rights, have been trampled upon so much that rape is now considered a small infringement that should be ignored. Young girls cannot move in peace as ‘suitors’ lay ambushes for them. I know of a number of young girls who refuse to be sent to the shops. They would rather face the wrath of their parents than face the vagabonds on the way.

As long as we do not see the violation of human rights as making someone or group of people uncomfortable regardless of their numbers or how trivial we think their case is, then we are a long way off.  No one should ever say, ‘what could have done?’

‘The teacher asked me to come to the storeroom and fondled my breasts, what could I have done?’

‘The doctor inserted his fingers into my vagina, even though I did not understand that my vagina had anything to do with my headache. What could I have done?’

‘The taxi driver asked us to pile into the taxi, women on top of men, what could I have done? The situation demanded it.’

‘The police officers whipped us, despite the fact that it is taboo for a man to lay hands on a woman without her consent. What could I done, he is a police officer.’

‘The human resources manager asked me to hold the desk. What could I have done, I wanted the job desperately?’

No one should ever say, what could I have done? Because there is always a choice, always a decent and dignified way out.  I remember a case when I was growing up of a man who used his wife to pay off his gambling debt. He instructed the guy he owed money to, to go to his place and ‘have’ his wife. The wife ‘consented’. After years of abuse, she could not think of going against her husband’s wishes, but she could have. In narrating her ordeal, the refrain was, ‘What could I have done?’  She could have said no, because she was not comfortable with the whole nonsensical setup. But she did not take the dignified way out.

In our fight for human rights, we should make sure that no one ever says, ‘What could I have done?’ What could I have done is not the dignified way out.

Deplorable behavior of Zimbabwean police officers

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Monday, May 3rd, 2010 by Mgcini Nyoni

We were recently invited to a crusade at our local police station.  The main speakers at the crusade were Sergeant Zimbeva and Sergeant Sibanda. My wife was skeptical.

“Do police officers actually go to church?” she enquired.

I told her there is no way of knowing who is a teacher, who is a nurse or who is a police officer at Sunday service. Her skepticism was based on the deplorable behavior of police officers: At best it is not Christian and at its worst, it is criminal. I have always known that public perception of police officers was not good, but I did not know it went as far as bunching them up into a group of heathens.

There were powerful messages at the crusade, like Word Power, A glimpse into the Future, Why so Much Suffering, One Life that Changed the World, Created for Eternity, Right and Wrong – Does it Really Matter and many other messages. Those two police officers who were doing most of the preaching were not the cocky, arrogant, corrupt, violent officers we see on a daily basis.

We stay close to a police station and we witness the rotten behavior of police officers on a daily basis: the constant arrest and beating up of people by the police at the shops, apparently for public drinking. But then we see police officers drinking and urinating right in front of our children. We see police officers setting up roadblocks a few meters from the police station for the purposes of collecting bribes from emergency taxi drivers. The police officers move in droves whenever they are broke and are in search of bribes, but do not take on actual crime: when there was a spate of muggings in our area, about fifty meters from the police station, we reported the matter to the police. They did nothing, did not even bother posting a patrol.

A cell phone recently disappeared at the small shop that I run. The young woman who had lost her cell phone reported the matter to the police. Three male police officers came to the shop to ‘investigate’. After they had left, it was generally agreed that the police officers were being so diligent because a beautiful young woman had reported the case. They were interested in sleeping with her but not the case was the general opinion. I suggested that the main problem was that Zimbabweans do not know the law. Someone countered by saying that it does not matter whether you know the law or not, because the law is not followed.

I found this rather disturbing. Does the Minister of Home affairs, well, the Minister(s) of Home Affairs actually . . . do they know that the police officers out there do not have a shred of dignity? I guess the police need to do a lot of public relations. The logical starting point would be doing their job and doing it properly.

Volcanic ash affects Zimbabwean writers

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Friday, April 23rd, 2010 by Mgcini Nyoni

I never imagined myself talking of volcanic ash over Europe from an Icelandic volcano. I thought what does volcanic ash have to do with a poor writer from Zimbabwe? I might never be in the vicinity of a volcano in my lifetime.

But the volcanic ash has hit my colleagues in the arts industry in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. Jane Morris and Brian Jones of Amabooks, a local publisher, were supposed to travel to South Africa and on to Britain for the London Book Fair. Amabooks have published numerous books including short writings from Bulawayo. They have also published several collections of poetry by John Eppel. John Eppel was also published in the prestigious poetry anthology Fire In The Soul: 100 Poems For Human Rights by Amnesty International and New Internationalist. Also in the anthology are local poets, Julius Chingono based in Harare and myself based in Bulawayo.

I met Jane and Brian at the art gallery in Bulawayo and they were not at all pleased with the fact that they had failed to travel to the London Book Fair. And they were now trying to make frantic efforts to travel to the Harare International Festival of the Arts (HIFA), the biggest festival in Zimbabwe. Since the Amabooks team thought they wouldn’t be around, they had not made any arrangements for HIFA. We have only a handful of festivals in Zimbabwe; these include Ibumba Festival, run by Siyaya Arts in Bulawayo, Intwasa Arts Festival that is held at the end of September in Bulawayo and the Bulawayo Poetry Festival 26-28 August. The Bulawayo Poetry Festival is run by Poetry Bulawayo and is a feast of poetry.

Another artist affected by the volcanic ash is writer Christopher Mlalazi. He was supposed to have travelled to the US for a writing fellowship on Tuesday the 21st of April. I met him on the 22nd and he was unhappy that the volcanic ash had scuttled his plans. Chris’s specialty is short stories. But he recently published a novel, Many Rivers, which tells of the many rivers that an illegal Zimbabwean immigrant has to face. After crossing the crocodile infested Limpopo River, there are still many other rivers to be crossed in the form of obstacles and hardships. Christopher is a National Arts Merits Awards winner with his collection of short stories, Dancing With Life that was published by Amabooks.

When I met Jane Morris later she had become rather upbeat. She had managed to convince the British Council, sponsors of the London Book Fair, to send them to a literary fair in Wales instead. I sincerely hope the whole volcanic ash will clear up soon so that our torch bearers can travel.

Who is my enemy?

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Tuesday, April 20th, 2010 by Mgcini Nyoni

Should we take the invitation of the North Koreans to camp in Zimbabwe as an insult? Should we forget that the military ‘strategies’ of the Koreans is what wiped out entire villages.

Who is my enemy here? Is it the Koreans who trained sadistic ‘soldiers in the art of killing and maiming. Or is it perhaps the Zimbabwe ‘government’ – read Zanu PF or better still read Robert Mugabe, who unleashed the violence to begin with.

What will happen if a Korean ever decides to ‘invest’ in Matabeleland? Will he suffer for the sins of his fathers? Or should a son suffer for the sins of his father. Who is my enemy here, the Koreans or Mugabe?

Is Roy Bennett an enemy of the black Zimbabwean? Is he answerable for the sins of his father who destroyed schools that were being  built for black children? Should David Coltart apologise for being in Smith’s police force?

It might seem as if I am asking silly questions, but these same questions and more will always be a stumbling block to a united Zimbabwe. If such a thing will ever exist. We should ask the difficult questions and get answers; satisfactory answers.

Are the Shona and the Ndebele enemies? Is an Ndebele guy who supports Dynamos a sellout? Is an Ndebele guy who marries a Shona woman a sellout? Should we look the other way and spit on the ground if someone addresses us in Shona in Matabeleland? Is there a Shona project to colonise Matabeleland and destroy the very core of Ndebele customs, languages and identity?

Who is my enemy? Is it the Shona policeman deployed in Tsholotsho or was he just deployed there? Is he part of the Shona supremacy movement, an agent, thoroughly briefed on how to go about creating the Republic of Mashonaland? Is the British journalist or human rights campaigner genuine or just here to make sure the British maintain their economic stronghold on Zimbabwe?

Is it as simple as Mugabe being a dictator and the whole charade being about unseating him? But he has killed less people now than he killed in Matabeleland in the eighties? Or is Ndebele blood a lighter shade of red than Shona blood?

I have done enough asking for today and I demand answers?

Who is my enemy?