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Sexism at UZ, misandry in practice
Trevor Murai, Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU)
February 06, 2007

The University of Zimbabwe administration has brewed not so successfully a strategy to divert focus on the exorbitant hiked residence and food meals which are packed at $345 000, 00 through a divide and rule quasi-androphobia, the fear of males or masculinity which has triggered the UZ accommodation office to re-designate the use of Halls of residence. According to a notice to students posted on UZ notice boards on 29 January 2007 New Complex 1, 2, 3 which hitherto accommodated males students will now accommodate female students. Female students will also retain those hostels that had always been reserved for them. New Hall will be reserved for international students. What is implied is that local male students now have two halls of residence out of nine hostels available at campus. Well done to whoever engineered such a decision but may we hasten to expose your strategy or tactic and alert you that we will not be diverted by this move from focusing on lobbying for further reduction of residence fees into a gender based discourse.

Such a decision is informed by patriarchal stereotypes which view females as the weaker sex, obedient, submissive and law abiding; and thus they don't pose any threat to the fragile socio-political and geometric space on campus. Alas University female students' behaviour is not confined by any stereotypes. They are equally nefarious just like their male counter parts. On the other hand miss-informed patriarchal stereotypes underpinning this diabolic, unethical move by the UZ accommodation office posit that the male student is a hooligan, a thief, an infrastructural vindaliser and so on and thus their presence on campus in significant numbers pose an ever present threat. However patriarchal stereotypes can not be used to allocate two out of nine hostels to female students yet their population is estimated to be slightly above a quarter of that of male students. . This move translates into violation of fundamental human rights and such discrimination based on sex should not be let to go unchallenged.It should be appreciated that our calls for female students to be allocated another residence were in good faith and noble as the population of female students has increased and we thought New Hall was an ideal.

The UZ Student Representative Council frowns and castigates this sexist move. We are there to stand for students' interests, both females and males. This we shall do competently, anybody who shall attempt to barricade and repress the students and in particular the male student shall be a living testimony that the UNION has its die hard cadres. The office which bears the loci standii of this decision is an enemy of peace and tranquillity and we mourn in advance the repercussions of such a move if it was to be implemented. This is tantamount to adding salt in a wound oozing with blood as the consequences of the decision may complement echoing calls for further violence, vandalism and disturbances at UZ. This misguided decision militates against progress and might throw the university into a forced closure when we resume for the coming semester. With the UZ non academic staff and lecturers threatening to go on strike as soon as we open, this sexist move is an opportunity offered in a silver plata for furthering and extending national political agendas which politically motivated people and institutions can not fail to utilise for purposes of political mileage. Any serious political institution strives to win the hearts of students and we appeal to the politicians to see the light and intervene. It is true, if serious disturbances were to start at UZ in particular, there are most likely to spread like September bush fires to all nooks and corners of the country. Is there a need to experiment?

This move may serve to heighten the level of social tension between the administration and the students and this will jeopardise the incomplete and fragile calm that exist. We have great respect to our fellow learned colleagues in decision making bodies such as the UZ Senate, Council and Student Affairs Committee and no stretch of imagination locate such a move from these renowned bodies. Also our learned Vice Chancellor is a non- sexist, upholds ethical values, has students' interests at heart and there is no way such a socially insensible and in senile move be associated with Professor Levi Nyagura. As much as we appreciate that male students are more gullible to vandalism than female students the accommodation office can not take segregatory sexist stance as a solution. This is gender insensitivity at its extreme and such a move flies in the face of the national drive of gender equality and equity.

All people whatever their genders, were created by the almighty equally; and so we are equal in the sight of the Lord and the accommodation office should treat us as such. The accommodation office can not stoop so low to treat students differently because of the sex in which they were born in, so as to cover up for the inefficiencies of failing to cope up with maintenance, refurbishments and repairs in the Halls of residence. Can someone be reminded that we have no control over the gender we are and reverse such a laughable, miscalculated move. We pray that the decision will be scrapped off.

We are celebrated advocates of affirmative action; we believe that who ever is behind this decision is not more of an affirmative activist than ourselves and should not hoodwink the nation into believing that he or she is championing affirmative action. This move is a screaming sexist gimmick that breaches contractual arrangements between the students and the administration. Students are allocated accommodation annually as per university policies and the affected male students who have lost their accommodation have a legitimate expectation to be moving into ccommodation come 26 February when the college opens for the second semester. And thus the UZ SRC is engaging the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights for legal action against such a sexist move.

*Trevor Murai is the General Secretary University of Zimbabwe Students Representative council.

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