An Open Letter to Zimbabwe: Gumbura Part 2
Dear Zimbabwe, and beyond,
GAOLED End Time Message church leader Robert Gumbura has filed a High Court appeal against his conviction and sentence of 40 years in jail for rape. Describing his verdict as wrong and his sentence as “shocking”, Gumbura wants the higher court to clear him of any wrong doing. During his trial, Gumbura was cleared on four counts relating to three other women for lack of evidence, while the rest of his negative exploits were not mentioned. Gumbura insists that the court convicted him even though witnesses were not credible, that the evidence of the witnesses was fraught with inconsistencies and that the magistrate convicted him without the State proving a case against him.
Commenting on the likelihood of the courts granting Gumbura’s appeal on radio yesterday evening, one high profile personnel in the judiciary circles spoke about Gumbura’s appeal on a radio talk show. His message was clear; the women bringing in new evidence have to be credible enough for the court to consider their ‘stories’. What credibility exceeds that of a 17 year old giving personal testimony of how an old man forcefully pressed her against the wall and raped her in a darkroom, and she was a virgin?
This situation is uncouth, unacceptable and too glaring. I have, through experience, developed into a living feminist, and I can now see beyond all patriarchal borders. I have learnt patriarchy’s shapes, names, colours, forms and structures. The plan is well orchestrated, and is conspicuously blatant, and if women of Zimbabwe do not rise up in determination against this menacing river, Gumbura will indeed be granted freedom, and in no time too. This appeal saga is reason why Gumbura was convicted in a lesser court, reason why his trial was hasty, and reason why his HIV status was not part of the whole framework, so that his crimes would be reduced. True, the magistrate’s court is the court of first instance, and the high court is the court of appeal, but why didn’t Mujaya reach the maximum sentence his jurisdiction could allow in the first instance; and why didn’t he appeal to the high court for permission to exert a higher sentence?
Look here people; women of Zimbabwe are not simplistically worried about the number of years Gumbura would have gotten as in quantities, especially as it is quite obvious that the man may not come out of jail in one living piece given his age, even if he were to be sentenced to 20 years lesser. We are rather more concerned about the qualitative bits. We abhor the trivializations that went with this sentence. What happened is tantamount to the state setting a bad precedent, and saying rape of women can be classified into good rape and bad rape, and good rape will get 10 years per count while bad rape will get 15 years per count, and also some rape will be thrown away and dismissed for lack of ‘credible’ evidence.
And as already noted in the previous article, Gumbura is indeed not alone. As a feminist citizen journalist, my pre-occupation after work is to listen to the issues people talk about, and I do it with a lot of passion and emotion. I do it at bus stops, church spaces, food outlets, the informal market place, in fact, at all possible public spaces. Call it what you want, and call me whatever names, I call it Listening Research, and I love my politics because it has women and children’s safety at heart. So last night, doing my Listening Research, I learnt of another bizarre story, similar to Gumbura’s and brewing up in Marondera, 100 kilometres from Harare. Another church ‘pastor’ keeps an array of young virgins to massage him and keep him warm each evening he comes back home from his daily ‘preaching’ errands. What happens to one or two of the virgins during the night is knowledge only for the privileged. Get the facts right women, the young women have to be virgins every day, which means the arithmetic theory of elimination by substitution takes place each and every day as ‘used ones’ give way for ‘unused’ ones. Sounds like a joke, and stranger than fiction too, but this is Zimbabwe. It is not my duty to name, but rather that of the police to investigate and bring the criminal to book.
To the women of Zimbabwe I say, Women, we are not a grasshopper in the merciless beaks of the birds of patriarchy in the Zimbabwe food chain, never! We must rise up in action and refuse, and show these patriarchs that determined hands know no menacing river. Tomorrow is Valentine’s day, but let’s refuse the politics of lust and bestiality associated with it by some unreasonable men in our society. Let us rather agree with our sister across the globe, and name and declare it V-Day. Yes, V we are proud, and we will and stand with our sisters across the globe to take action against Gumbura’s appeal. He must rot in jail, and this will teach other rapists to behave. Our Ghanaian and Nigerian sisters showed them ‘popo’, and their demands were met. Our Liberian sisters denied them sex until the peace agreement was signed. Let us refuse our men useless rituals, and we do this out of love - do this as a way of conscientising our men, and of making them our allies in this fight for our rights, and for peace and security.
The Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe has organized a protest march where women and men, boys and girls are invited in their numbers. The protest march takes place tomorrow the 14th of February 2014, on V-Day. No flowers, just the march. The march will start at Town House and participants will walk up Julius Nyerere Street to the Harare Gardens where key addresses will be made and a petition circulated and signed. This petition, with clear cut demands for stiffer penalties for rapists and other related issues will be signed on Friday and continue to circulate until the 8th of March on International Women’s Day, where it will be submitted to the Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs and to the Presidents’ office.
The objective of the march is to make a clear cut statement against rape and demand for stiffer penalties. Participants are expected to wear Red and Black and to be at the Town House by 08:00am. Sisters, forget your comfort zones for once and join to fight for collective rights. Doubling our efforts is the only way we can claim back the safety and security of our spaces. Only women can build a strong movement for our rights. If men will concede to the demands of the No Smoking Campaign posters in airports and smoke only in designated areas, they can also listen to our no to rape campaign and have sex only where there is consent.
Zimbabwe is everything in one for me, that is why I mourn the erosion of its peace. It is my homeland, my dignity, my identity, my pride, home for me and my children, and for the one I love. It is my history, it is everything in my life, yet I stand in shame and fear every day, fear of violation of my bodily integrity, and of my daughters’ safety. Rise up Zimbabwe and join the march; it is time our common vision for peace is shared. For our sisters across the boarders your support in all other possible means is will be well received. Enough is enough!