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Mtetwa has the right to be here
April 07, 2013
In 1962 Herbert
Wiltshire Chitepo was appointed Director of Public Prosecutions
(DPP) in Tanzania.
made him the Tanzanian government’s chief legal officer.
In 1994 Simpson
Mutambanengwe was appointed to the Namibian High Court. He also
served on the Supreme Court of that country, both as acting Chief
Justice and, after his retirement, several times as Acting-Judge
quit the Zimbabwean bench in July 2001 to join the Botswana High
Court. He died in 2009 aged 50 of heart failure.
Chinhengo is presently a High Court judge in Botswana.
The great lawyers
cited above never denounced their Zimbabwean citizenship on taking
up these positions in foreign lands because it was needless to do
so. Indeed Zimbabwe has exported great legal minds abroad and as
a country we should all be proud of this.
are working in high positions all over the world. You find Zimbabwean
professors in almost every reputable university in the world. They
are where they are mostly because of their personal achievements.
They have been able to work in foreign governments and institutions
primarily because these governments and institutions have seen their
qualifications, professionalism and have liked the value they add.
We have heard
that there are at least five Zimbabwean engineers working at the
Pentagon, the headquarters of the United States Department of Defence.
Unconfirmed reports say our own Deputy Prime Minister, Arthur Mutambara
once worked there applying his knowledge of Robotics and Mechatronics
to even be considered for work at the hub of US military might is
unimaginable if one doesn’t consider the US philosophy of
harnessing the world’s greatest brains in all fields, including
heart surgery and nuclear physics. Albert Einstein’s greatest
achievements came after immigrating to the US.
employ foreigners in highly specialised fields for their own benefit
have outgrown some of the irrational feelings brought about by an
overplayed sense of nationalism. Xenophobia is one such irrational
sentiment. Interestingly Zimbabwe is said to have three million
of its children working in different fields across the world. This
would suggest Zimbabweans should be the last people to hate foreigners
working in their midst.
People and newspapers
that promote xenophobia do not appreciate the extent to which this
irrational hatred of foreigners can go. The brutal murder of Ernesto
Alfabeto Nhamuave, a 35-year-old Mozambican who was burned to death
during the xenophobic violence in South Africa in May 2008 continues
to haunt the world today.
of him burning were carried in newspapers and television stations
across the world in a manner that brought home just how barbaric
violence against foreigners can be.
In the past
few weeks we have seen and read articles about top human rights
lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa which have sought to isolate her as an unwanted
foreigner meddling in our affairs. Not only have the articles been
full of untruths, but disturbingly they have sought to make her
a legitimate target for attack. It may no longer be safe for her
to walk freely in the streets of Harare.
have been based on outright lies about her immigration status. Legal
experts such as world-renowned author Petina Gappah have said about
the articles, “The worst things are the legal inaccuracies;
they quote provisions on citizenship that do not apply to her at
all, and imply that she is here illegally.”
The truth of
the matter, Gappah says, is that, “Mtetwa is a permanent resident,
[though] not a citizen. So she is allowed to travel on her Swazi
passport. She is also allowed, as confirmed by a Supreme Court judgement,
as a permanent resident of Zimbabwe, to engage in employment or
other gainful activity in any part of Zimbabwe.”
What is sickening
is how these peddlers of falsehoods on Mtetwa’s immigration
status have unashamedly gone on to attack her private life. All
sorts of lewd names have been used to describe her relationship
with former husband, mathematician, Dr David Mtetwa, a professor
at the University of Zimbabwe.
Dr Mtetwa was
good enough to refuse to talk about his former wife and has also
requested that his privacy to be respected. These personal attacks
on Mtetwa reveal another phobia at the heart of the writers who
have sought to vilify her - misogyny, the hatred for women and girls.
All her detractors have emerged to be men who feel threatened by
her achievements and who wish to endear themselves to the system
because they cannot survive outside of it.
itself in several ways such as “sexual discrimination, denigration
of women, violence against women and sexual objectification of women”.
is woman, Mtetwa is being portrayed not as a successful legal practitioner
but as an agent of foreign forces and a loose woman. There have
been male lawyers who have defended human rights as robustly as
Mtetwa has done but we have not seen them described in the uncharitable
words that she has been described with. Some of the expletives used
to describe her have shamed us a nation because they can’t
be used in polite society.
How many male
lawyers have divorced and moved on with their lives? Have these
been labelled the way Mtetwa has been by these shameless writers?
The principal motive behind this denigration is to make it easy
for political thugs to physically attack her when they see her on
the street. We have seen how in Zimbabwe women cannot be allowed
their own individuality without being labeled prostitutes. We have
seen how women going about their legitimate business have been surrounded
by the police and incarcerated on the false accusation that they
were loitering for the purpose of prostitution. We have seen how
commuter omnibus touts and louts have with impunity attacked women
and girls for dressing the way they feel. The idea behind the writings
we have read recently on Mtetwa is to bunch her with all the women
who have been deemed unsuitable to live in our society, so she too
can be a legitimate target for physical violence.
The truth of
the matter is that Beatrice Mtetwa is working legally in Zimbabwe
and has every right to excel in the field of her choice without
discrimination. She has no apologies to make about her Swazi links
in the same way that Chitepo, Mutambanengwe, Chinhengo and other
Zimbawean expatriates working in foreign lands had no apologies
to make for occupying the various spaces they did or still do.
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