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2002 Presidential & Harare Municipal elections - Index of articles
Women's groups in Zimbabwe mobilise to condemn post-election sexual
April 03, 2002
report has caused shock waves in women's groups in Zimbabwe. There
are efforts underway to mobilise around the issue of sexual violence
and YOUR PARTICIPATION is vital.
The Sunday Telegraph (UK), 31 March
were the sex slaves of Mugabe's men'
began at eight in the evening and lasted until dawn for Felicia
Matamure. In tears, the young trainee teacher described last week
how she was captured by government youth militia in north-eastern
Zimbabwe and dragged to their camp near Mt Darwin. There she was
gagged and gang-raped by a gang of 10 young men high on drink
and drugs in a horrifying night of sexual abuse and beatings.
"They tied my legs and arms to poles," the distraught 23-year-old
told The Telegraph from a safe house in Harare. "The men took
turns to rape me while the others watched and sang liberation
Felicia was untied at dawn, but threatened with death if she fled
the camp. Undaunted, she escaped the next night and tried to report
the case to the police, only to be turned away. "They were not
interested," she said. "The war vets and the militia are above
She said there were dozens of other abducted women at the former
school that has been turned into a militia camp. Some were made
to wash and cook, others were forced to sleep with the gang-leaders.
Most were too scared to flee because of the retribution that their
family or village would face.
Lilian Nzirawa's ordeal was just as appalling: the militia forced
her into their camp, ripped off her dress and slashed her underwear
"I was tied, gagged and blindfolded while they raped me," she
recalled. After about an hour, her abductors removed the blindfold,
but took it in turns to rape her again as their comrades cheered
and sang revolutionary songs. With tears rolling down her face,
Lilian, in her early twenties, said she recognised some of her
assailants as local men from her home area near Bindura, 60 miles
north of Harare. "All I want is justice and all I can do is cry,"
she said softly.
Both Felicia and Lilian are now in hiding but risked their lives
to reveal the horrors they endured; their names have been changed
at their request. Their revelations come as the militia and war
veterans indulge in a new wave of political violence.
After resorting to rampant electoral fraud in this month's election,
President Mugabe is desperate to ensure that the MDC can never
again mount such a strong political challenge to his regime. Across
the country, opposition activists have been attacked, forced to
pay heavy "fines", hounded from their homes and - in at least
six cases since the election - killed by Zanu-PF mobs.
White farmers are also being targeted: in Zanu-PF's Mashonaland
strongholds, dozens have been forced from their homes in revenge
for backing the MDC, while Terry Ford was shot dead on his farm
It is local black MDC activists who are bearing the brunt of the
anti-opposition crackdown, however. Laina Marowa, Tsanangurai
Marowa and Dorcas Maneni fled into the bush in the eastern Manicaland
province after serving as MDC polling agents. Mobs had turned
up outside their houses and local Zanu-PF leaders had ordered
them to pay "fines" of almost £50, a small fortune in rural areas.
Across the country, the MDC estimates that 1,200 of its election
agents are on the run and there are countless reports of abuse
at militia torture camps. Photographs obtained by The Telegraph
reveal that new recruits are still being trained in the Bindura
area, 100 miles north of Harare.
Sexual assault has also been used as part of this new strategy
of terror: one 15-year-old girl was repeatedly raped by youth
militia shortly after the election because they could not find
both MDC activists.
to Dewa Mavhinga, a research officer with the Zimbabwe Women Lawyers'
Association (ZWLA), there are more than 1,000 female sex slaves
being held in 56 militia camps. "These militia are now in celebration
mode," he said. "They act like they're unafraid of anything."
The victims fall into three categories. "Some are promised money,"
he said. "Others go in because they're ordered to and they're
too frightened to disobey. The last group are taken into the camps
as punishment for supporting the opposition MDC." The fear that
they will be discovered and killed by their former tormentors
is common among escaped sex slaves, according to Mr Mavhinga.
"They have been told that they will be hunted down and killed
by the militia and the war veterans," he said.
Even once they have escaped, the stigma attached to rape in rural
areas means that women's suffering continues. "They can't just
admit they've been raped because they fear their husbands will
anything more to do with them," said Mr Mavhinga. Felicia confirmed
the problem as she broke down in tears and explained that she
was married with a small child. "My husband works in South Africa.
When I escaped I wanted to phone and tell him but I just couldn't
do it. By the time I spoke to him, he had heard. When he answered
the phone, he just said: 'I know'. That was it." Asked if she
will ever see her husband again, Felicia smiled sadly and shook
her head. "I don't think so," she said.
women are still a present day issue and many of us live with them
on a daily basis in the private enclosures of our homes and offices.
In Zimbabwe the very recent presidential elections saw an escalation
of sexual and physical violence against women in many communities
and in many ways. This is something we have seen increasingly since
the 2000 constitutional referendum that marked the beginning of
With those farm invasions came a class of "war vets" who were championing
the invasions and finding young girls and women to use sexually
in their "camps". This has continued and has given birth to the
youth camps of the recent presidential election of what we have
called "the militia". Young boys who were kept in halls and camps
to beat up people and cause terror both in rural and urban areas.
The girls who were there, were there to cook, clean and provide
sexual relief to these boys.
Do we think they all used condoms every time they had sex? Indeed
condoms were found discarded all over the camps but did they use
them all the time?
I hope we tell the stories of the women of our country and expose
the many horrors and abuses inflicted on us especially those that
have taken place on our bodies, on our gender in the recent elections
and the period before and after. I hope we gather that information.
I hope we document it. I hope we use it against those who have and
continue to fund and protect those inflicting this violence.
"How can you be a legitimate leader to me when you got that position
by raping me, beating me up, burning my property, cutting my husband/son's
back, taking over my home and taking away my dignity and humanity".
These are the questions that need to be asked.
If it is happening to one sister, it is happening to you also. It
is just a matter of time.
My heart sank with despair when I read of the sexual violations
against Zimbabwean women. The environment we are living in today
calls for more activism than ever before. What you chronicle regarding
the happenings in the youths camps seems to happen everywhere else.
The question is what to do about it. Starting from the premise that
information is the prerequisite of empowerment, would it not be
helpful to gather as much information about the happenings in these
places and to publicise the goings on in public meetings or through
the various religious groupings . We need reasoned arguments that
illustrate that there is institutionalised violence against women.
Juliana, Harare: email Juliana@hivos.co.zw
We know that the world over camps are a place of sexual violation
for women and girls. In terms of documentation, The
Girl Child Network has documented reports of sexual violations
which happened to women and girls during the election period. The
Trust has done some work and we, ZWRCN, have a draft report
done during the Parliamentary Elections.
We do not have on record any information about systematic rape in
the training camps. Several years ago I spoke with some women ex-combatants
who said they had been raped in the training camps during the liberation
war. They said to me because of the bigger cause they were fighting
for they did not turn it into a sexual rights matter.
I think we may want to consider expanding the forum a little to
include organisations like the Girl Child Network, The Musasa
Project, etc. but who can we ask to provide the all important
evidence? And testimonies? I would hate for our cause to be dismissed
because we cannot provide clear documented examples. This may seem
cautious coming from an activist but I know that without the data
we will really be told we are being emotional and unreasonable and
can't prove anything.
Bella, Harare: email email@example.com
While we were
in Shurugwi during the last week of January, word came to us through
some of the participants at our awareness meetings that girls were
being coerced into having sexual intercourse with the "trainers"
in the training camps. One of the culprits was even mentioned by
name. The problem l envisage is getting the communities to talk.
What if they do and we have a recurrence of the post 2000 elections
fiasco when offenders were granted blanket amnesty. The victims
would suffer double jeopardy so to speak.
This is devastating.
If all of us collectively or individually, do not do anything about
this, we stand to be
haunted by the gruesome experiences of Felicia and Lilian. I believe
that we have both a social and national responsibility to save our
country from worse degradation. I challenge each one of us to use
their mouths, pens, e-mail, networks etc to make sure that this
rot is brought to an end. Anyone from a Pressure Group? Can we assist?
Harare: email firstname.lastname@example.org
I think as women
we also need to speak persistently and consistently against these
violations because our silence may indicate that we probably approve
of what is happening. Can you imagine, last week a woman (teenage
girl) in Manicaland was gang-raped by 10 war veterans in one go
and nobody has said anything about it.
I guess part
of the problem is that this information is not circulating so we
cannot speak against violations that we are not aware of, hence
the urgent need for an information hub where all violations against
women are reported and acted upon immediately. When we know what
violations are taking place, then we can begin to take action and
speak out, but we need to move quickly, our women folk cannot continue
to suffer while we remain silent.
Matilda, Harare: email email@example.com
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