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statement for our sisters in Zimbabwe
Building Women's Activism
This collective statement
comes from meetings of grassroots women activists from across Cape
Town who see no distinction between domestic and state violence,
or between Zimbabwe and South Africa when it comes to responding
to the attack on our sisters.
We write this statement
to acknowledge and listen to the pain of Zimbabwean women and to
support their quest to become full citizens which we in South Africa
are also fighting for. We recognise that in the context of poverty,
displacement, violence, and exclusion state oppression adds another
unbearable layer to women's oppression which we are determined
to fight together.
by the state . . .
the Zimbabwean state decided to celebrate international women's
day by passing the long contested Domestic
Violence Bill. This is no doubt a long awaited for and important
piece of legislation to protect women from violence, but it loses
it value when it is set against the context of repression of activism/dissent
and violence perpetrated against women by the Zimbabwean state.
state is often not concerned with the interests of women unless
these issues give it political mileage. Women's bodies and
energies were used to fight the war of liberation but through operation
clean-up in 1983, the gukurahundi massacres in the 1980's
in Matabeleland and more recently operation Murambatsvina all show
that the states stifling of dissent and the assault on women's
bodies to enforce control go hand in hand. The blatant articulation
of this can be heard in the words of MP Mubawo on October 22 2006,
when he uttered the infamous "I represent God" speech
in defence of male dominance.
access to justice . . .
We in South
Africa know too well the gap between the hard earned theories set
out in law, and the reality of women's access to justice in practice.
Zimbabwean activists for women's rights, Sekai Holland and
Grace Kwinjeh were brutally beaten by the police and refused right
of passage when they tried to come to Johannesburg for medical care.
These are not isolated incidents, activists from Women
of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) and women involved in the labour movement
have likewise been targeted. Along with their daughters they have
been rounded up in the night, blindfolded and taken to unknown destinations
in the bush where they are interrogated and assaulted with weapons
and fists. They have had bones fractured, earlobes torn, and medical
Many of these
women have dedicated their lives to confronting racism, sexism,
colonialism and patriarchy and have been feminist activists for
much longer than they have been opposition members. They have paved
our way and we stand behind them wholeheartedly. Whilst male activists
are also subjected to brutal attacks - the violent the victimisation
of everyday women through demolition of houses and businesses in
Murambatsvina, and as political and feminist activists has a
specific dynamic where women are hardest hit, and attacked on multiple
levels at once. During the assault, Sekai and Grace were accused
as being 'whores of Tsangirai (MDC leader) and prostitutes
of Bush and Blair'. This is not the first time women who act
independently from men and in their own interest have been targeted
for attack. We recognise this as an age old tool to control women's
social, economic, political, physical, and emotional mobility.
bodies as a boxing ring . . .
amongst elite male politicians in Mugabe's inner circle are being
played out on the bodies of women on the ground. These attacks on
women activists are not simply a Zanu-PF/MDC issue. When the bill
was debated in Parliament towards the end of 2006 - a member
of the opposition party (MDC) fought against it, arguing that criminalising
wife battery was "dangerous for men and our powers will be
usurped, men's rights will be gone if this bill is passed."
by any name . . .
1 in 4 women
in Zimbabwe face violence in the home and forced sex with their
partners. In South Africa, 1 in 4 first sexual experience is forced.
The current police brutality
in Zimbabwe is nothing less than state machinery mirroring the act
it is condemning of husbands battering wives and children. This
contradiction of brutalising women at the same time inviting the
women of Zimbabwe to celebrate women's day and the passing
of the Domestic Violence Bill is not unique to Zimbabwe. We can
also see it in South Africa in the 16 Days Campaign - now
the 365 Days Campaign with many state sponsored events whilst women
continue to be evicted, have their water cut-off and in many cases
- like recently in Durban, women activists are facing police
brutality. Despite the existence of laws which are supposed to protect
us the majority women in SA like in Zimbabwe fail to access justice.
Women's Security . . .
Africa, people's livelihoods and ability to support their
family - are being violently demolished. In Zimbabwe it was
Murambatsvina, in Zambia this week thousands of informal traders
are being cleared out of the city centres and in Cape Town there
is a proposal for the creation of a new special police force set
up to demolish 'illegal' structures. In all cases, poor
women are at the front lines and we know women bear the brunt of
these operations clean-ups.
Solidarity . . .
We demand that
both the state in Zimbabwe and South Africa must stop using women's
bodies as political footballs to gain mileage by passing the bills
without women being able to access justice. We must put pressure
on our government - silent diplomacy is killing Zimbabwean women.
We encourage all South Africans to take a stand against the human
rights abuses in Zimbabwe - in general and in particular against
our fellow women activists. We want to show government of Zimbabwe
that they must take women seriously and recognise us as human beings.
We urge our media must cover all attempts by the Zimbabwe State
to repress resistance.
rights are human rights!
For us, solidarity
is to become one so we will mobilise and set up networks between
SA and Zimbabwe. We want political peace and the machines of violence,
be they public or private, to stop brutalising women. We recognise
the national boundary between us and Zimbabwe as a colonial creation
and just as we were welcomed into Zimbabwe during our struggle,
we welcome Zimbabweans fighting for a free Zimbabwe into South Africa.
We want to create one movement for all women in both SA and Zimbabwe
to fight for women's rights. We stand by our sisters in Zimbabwe
for a consolidated resistance!!
activism (BWA) is monthly women-only space which brings together
women activists from in and around Cape Town to share, support,
network and learn. This statement was produced at a public forum
to talk about State Violence and Women in Zimbabwe - activists
from the following organisations were there: the Anti-war Coalition,
Treatment Action Campaign, New Women's Movement, Centre for
Civil Society, Whole World Women's Association, Community
Networking Forum, Sikhula Sonke, Litha Park Anti-Eviction Campaign,
Umzabalazo we Jubilee, Free Association, AIDC Right to Work Campaign,
South African Domestic Service and Allied Worker's Union,
COSATU, Women's Hope Education and Training Trust, Social Movement's
Indaba Western Cape, Hanover Park Wellness Clinic, Khulumani Support
Group, Overcome Heights Women's Action Group, Street People
Sector, Mosaic and the International Labour Research and Information
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