Kubatana.net an online community for Zimbabwean activists have responded to the reports in The Herald that Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai, President and Prime Minister of Zimbabwe, respectively, made anti-gay statements at a Women’s Day Rally with the theme Equal Rights, Equal Opportunities: Progress for All in Chitungwiza, near Harare. Below is Kubatana’s open letter to the MDC:
Open letter to the MDC
RE: Prime Minister Tsvangirai’s comments in The Herald, March 26, 2010
The Kubatana Trust of Zimbabwe is very concerned with what we have read in the article entitled “President, PM speak on gays” in The Herald of March 26, 2010.
The article quotes Tsvangirai in these two paragraphs:
PM Tsvangirai concurred saying: “President mataura nyaya yemagay rights, yevamwe varume vanofemera munzeve dzevamwe varume. [“President you talked about gay rights, of men who breathe in the ears of other men.”]
“Bodo, apowo handibvumirane nazvo. Unogodirei kutsvaga mumwe murume yet vakadzi make up 52 percent (of the population)? Varume titori vashoma,” [“No, I do not agree with that. Why would you look for a man when women make up 52% of the population? We men are actually fewer,”] he said.
It is even more worrying that these remarks were made as part of International Women’s Day celebrations in Chitungwiza, where the theme was “Equal Rights, Equal Opportunities: Progress for All.” The comments made by the Prime Minister speak more to “Equal Rights for Some” – not All.
Is The Herald article an accurate quotation of the remarks made by the Prime Minister’s in Chitungwiza?
If it is an accurate reflection of the Prime Minister’s response, and his personal views, what is the position of the MDC about homosexuality, gay rights and the protection of gay rights in the Constitution?
The Parliament of Uganda is currently debating the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, an extremely worrying and homophobic piece of legislation. This Bill draws strength from its assertion that homosexuality is “unafrican”. However, this assertion goes against the truth of history and culture, which finds instances of same-sex sexual relations between men and women across Africa, throughout time.
You can read the opinion of respected Ugandan human rights lawyer Sylvia Tamale, denouncing this bill, here:
• A Human Rights Impact Assessment of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill – http://www.faruganda.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=16%3Adrtamale-hits-the-hammer&catid=1%3Anews&Itemid=3
• Why anti-gay Bill should worry us – http://www.faruganda.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=10%3Aopnion&catid=1%3Anews&Itemid=3
Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe has been at the foreground of campaigning for gay rights, and have a wealth of literature available explaining the history of homosexuality in Africa. This history makes it clear that homosexuality is not a “Western import,” nor is it a response to demographic pressures in which one gender outnumbers the other.
The remarks attributed to the Prime Minister in The Herald suggest a simplistic, populist view of homosexuality. Is the Prime Minister seriously making an argument that because women out number men in Zimbabwe, men should not be in relationships with other men? If so, he is making an insulting, demeaning argument, which belittles the thousands of Zimbabwean men for whom homosexuality is their personal identity.
One’s sexuality is as integral a part of someone’s humanity as their race, gender, and religion. A Constitution that protects Zimbabweans against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is thus as essential as one that prevents discrimination on grounds such as race, gender, ethnicity, or religion.
When political leaders discriminate against one segment of the population in order to gain popularity with another, it encourages prejudice. This prejudice can easily fuel violence, hatred, and intolerance, which can divide the country. It is imperative that politicians use their public profile and status to promote tolerance, encourage diversity, and embrace all sectors of the population. To do otherwise is an egregious, offensive violation of the spirit of democracy, peace, human rights and ubuntu on which the Movement for Democratic Change is founded.
The Kubatana Trust of Zimbabwe
Global feminist conference launches ‘Call for participation’
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
18 January 2010, Ottawa
A ‘Call for Participation’ was launched today for Women’s Worlds 2011, a global feminist conference being held in Ottawa-Gatineau in July of 2011.
Acknowledging that important insights come from academia, community, and everywhere in between, organizers have deliberately dubbed this a ‘Call for Participation’. Proposals from individuals, groups, coalitions, networks, and teams will be accepted until September 15, 2010. Potential presenters are being invited to submit proposals under the main congress theme, “Inclusions, exclusions, and seclusions: Living in a globalized world”.
Since its first congress in 1981, Women’s Worlds has grown from a modest academic gathering to a distinguished international and interdisciplinary event. The 30th anniversary of Women’s Worlds in 2011 will potentially be the largest gathering of its kind in Canadian history.
Bringing together academics, advocates, researchers, policy-makers, workers, activists, and artists of all ages from around the world, the 2011 congress will be an occasion for equality advocates from around the globe to discuss globalization as it relates to women. Organizers also consider it an opportunity to strengthen connections while collaborating on approaches to advancing women’s rights, women’s empowerment, and gender equality.
Proposals are invited in French, Spanish, or English via the online form at the Women’s Worlds 2011 website.
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For more information:
Communications, Women’s Worlds 2011
AVIS AUX MÉDIAS
Lancement de l’Appel à participation d’un congrès féministe international
POUR DIFFUSION IMMÉDIATE
Le 18 janvier 2010, Ottawa
Mondes des Femmes 2011, un congrès féministe d’envergure internationale qui se tiendra à Ottawa-Gatineau en juillet 2011, lance aujourd’hui son Appel à participation.
Les organisatrices de Mondes des Femmes ont délibérément choisi de généraliser leur ” Appel à participation ” parce que, de l’université aux groupes communautaires, tous les milieux ont des perspectives importantes à proposer. Individues, groupes, coalitions, réseaux et équipes de travail peuvent soumettre leurs propositions d’ici au 15 septembre 2010. Les présentatrices sont invitées à s’inspirer du grand thème du congrès, ” Inclusions, exclusions et réclusions: Vivre dans un monde globalisé “.
De modeste rencontre universitaire lors de son premier congrès en 1981, Mondes des Femmes est devenu un prestigieux événement interdisciplinaire. Son 30e anniversaire en 2011 pourrait s’avérer le plus grand rassemblement du genre de l’histoire du Canada.
Rassemblant universitaires, militantes, chercheures, décisionnaires politiques, travailleuses, activistes et artistes de tous âges et de partout sur la planète, MF 2011 fournira aux militantes pour l’égalité du monde entier l’occasion d’explorer les enjeux femmes et mondialisation. Les organisatrices y voient également un lieu de renforcement des liens et de collaboration sur des approches visant l’avancement des droits des femmes, leur autonomisation et l’égalité entre les sexes.
Les présentatrices sont invitées à soumettre leurs propositions en français, en espagnol ou en anglais au moyen du formulaire Web qui se trouve sur le site de Mondes des Femmes 2011.
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Pour plus d’information:
Communications, Mondes des Femmes 2011
AVISO A LOS MEDIOS DE COMUNICACIÓN
Conferencia feminista global publica ‘Convocatoria abierta’
PARA PUBLICACIÓN INMEDIATA
18 de enero de 2010, Ottawa
Hoy se publicó la ‘Convocatoria abierta’ para participar en Mundos de Mujeres 2011, una conferencia feminista global que se llevará a cabo en Ottawa, Gatineau en julio de 2011.
Al reconocer que las contribuciones de la academia, de las comunidades y de cualquier forma de acción intermedia son igualmente importantes, l@s organizador@s han decidido dirigir esta “Convocatoria abierta”, a ponentes individuales, grupos, coaliciones, redes y equipos para que envíen sus propuestas de participación antes del 15 de septiembre de 2010. Se espera que l@s interesad@s en participar propongan presentaciones en torno al tema del congreso: “Inclusiones, exclusiones, y reclusiones: vivir en un mundo globalizado”.
Mundos de Mujeres, cuyo primer encuentro tuvo lugar en 1981, ha pasado de ser un pequeño encuentro académico, a ser un prestigioso acontecimiento interdisciplinario e internacional. En 2011, el 30o aniversario de Mundos de Mujeres será, con toda seguridad, el encuentro más importante en su tipo en la historia de Canadá.
Como punto de encuentro de académic@s, activistas, investigador@s, legislador@s, trabajador@s y artistas de todas las edades y de alrededor del mundo, el congreso de 2011 será la ocasión ideal para que defensor@s de la equidad de todo el mundo discutan las maneras en que la globalización afecta a las mujeres. L@s organizador@s también lo consideran una oportunidad para fortalecer contactos y colaborar en la construcción de enfoques que contribuyan a la equidad de género, al empoderamiento y al
progreso de los derechos de las mujeres.
Se invita a l@s ponentes potenciales a enviar sus propuestas de participación en español, francés, o en inglés, a través del formulario disponible en línea en el sitio web de Mundos de Mujeres.
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Para obtener más información:
Comunicación, Mundos de Mujeres 2011
Women’s Worlds 2011
Susan Tsvangirai died in a car accident last Friday, and I know that her husband, Morgan, has said he really thinks it was an accident, but I remain skeptical. I saw footage of him on the news saying something along the lines of there being 1 in a 1000 chances that the accident was deliberate. Regardless of what we may want to think, it is very sad that she was taken away now during this tentative time in Zimbabwe’s history.
I felt quite deflated when I first heard on Friday night. Haven’t Zimbabweans been dealing with enough with that Bob Mugabe who is STILL president, albeit illegitimately? And then I started suspecting that someone was trying to kill the new Prime Minister. How many people don’t know about the unofficial history of the political car accident in Zimbabwe?
Harare: RIOT police in Harare, today descended on hundreds of women
this morning who were peacefully protesting over the delayed
conclusion of the peace talks between Zimbabwe’s three major political
parties. At least 47 women were arrested around 10 in the morning and
over 100 were beaten in the city as they were walking to the venue of
the talks scheduled to begin this afternoon.
The Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCoZ) had mobilized nearly 1000
women who were tear- gassed and badly beaten as they regrouped at a
spot near the Rainbow Towers where the talks are expected to be held.
Women started grouping for the demonstration around the Rainbow Towers
at about 7am on Monday 27 October 2008 and the police dispersed them
using tear gas and some of the women were beaten up. Some of the women
even attempted to go directly to the Rainbow Towers and were beaten up
too. By 1130, police had set up a road block and were turning away any
cars intending to go to the venue of the talks, regardless of their
National Coordinator of the WCoZ, Netsai Mushonga is amongst those
arrested and information reaching their offices said the group has
been denied access to lawyers. Emilia Muchawa, WCoZ Chairperson, said
“the major concern by women is manifest hunger, amongst other
emergencies and the dire concern that failure to resolve the impasse
will further exarcebate the situation.”
It is for these reasons that Women demand the following;
That the political party principals put the interests and concerns of
the people of Zimbabwe first
That the Political Party Principals negotiate and conclude the talks
in good faith on Monday 27th October 2008.
That an Inclusive Government be in place shortly thereafter to begin
tackling the urgent challenges that the country is facing in
accordance with the Agreement.
That the Inclusive Government be constituted by a fair representation
of women within the spirit of the Government of National Unity deal,
SADC Protocol on Gender and Development and other regional and
Conclude the Talks, We are dying of hunger.
Pedzayi Hurukuro, Tafa nenzara.
Qedani inkulumo – sesilambile siyafa ngendlala
News update from WOZA
21st October 2008 – 5pm
Magistrate to give ruling on bail application on Friday 24th October – Williams and Mahlangu remain in prison
Magistrate Maphosa has reserved judgement on the request for bail for Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu until Friday 24th October as the ‘court is very busy’. Bail hearings are normally heard on an urgent basis. Williams and Mahlangu will therefore remain in Mlondolozi Female Prison until that date.
The bail hearing was heard in the absence of Williams and Mahlangu who had not been brought from Mlondolozi as prison authorities claimed that they had no fuel. This being despite the fact that the WOZA support team had been informed yesterday by one of the prison guards at Mlondolozi that they did currently have fuel. Two prison vehicles were also observed by the WOZA support team travelling at great speed into Bulawayo on Sunday afternoon.
The defence lawyer, Kossam Ncube, had also been given permission yesterday by a senior prison officer at Mlondolozi, Mathanire, to bring Williams and Mahlangu to court in his own vehicle if transport was not available. Upon arrival at Mlondolozi this morning however, Ncube was informed that it would not be possible after all by Superintendant Dlamini.
The hearing finally went ahead in their absence before Magistrate Maphosa. Prosecutor Chifamba called another state witness, Detective Sergeant Ncube from the Law and Order Section of Bulawayo Central Police Station to testify.
Ncube claimed he believed that bail should be denied because of pending cases against them, citing four different cases dating back to 2004. None of these cases are actually pending but the witness tried to claim this was because Williams and Mahlangu could never be found to be presented with their summons! On cross-examination however, he could not deny that the two accused had actually appeared in court for all of these cases. Following the cross-examination of the state witness by the defence, the court adjourned for lunch.
After lunch the magistrate heard the arguments of the two attorneys. The state had three main arguments: propensity, that the accused were of no fixed abode and that they had cases pending against them. Chifamba argued that the four cases mentioned by the state witness showed that the two accused had committed similar offences on several occasions and were likely to do so again. He claimed that the court should ignore the fact that these were not serious crimes. He also claimed that because the state witness had testified that he had tried on several occasions to locate the two at their homes, and they were not there at the time, obviously they did not live there. His third argument was that the case relating to a July 2007 arrest that is currently before the Supreme Court is pending and therefore Williams and Mahlangu wilfully lied to the court when asked if they had any cases pending against them.
In reponse, Kossam Ncube cited a 1922 judgement (States vs Shaw) that ruled that when arguing propensity, only convictions should be considered, not mere charges. He also cited a 1973 South African case (State vs Fourie) that ruled that with regard to propensity, only violent crimes should be considered. He went on to argue that neither Williams nor Mahlangu have ever been convicted of any crime.
With regard to the accusation of the two having no fixed abode, Ncube argued that there is no legal requirement for persons to remain at their given address 24 hours a day on the off chance that police may come looking for them. Just because Jenni Williams was not at home when police came looking for her last year does not mean that she does not live at the address that she has given. He also raised questions about the admissibility of police notes that the state had entered as evidence that police could not find Williams at her given address. The notes merely stated that summons could not be served, not the reasons why. The police officer who had made the notes was also not present in court. Ncube asserted that Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu had never defaulted on a court appearance and therefore did not constitute a risk, a fact that the state witnessed concurred with.
Ncube went on to argue that in fact none of the cases mentioned by the state are in fact pending as they had been removed off remand in all four cases. Williams and Mahlangu did not therefore mislead the court when they stated that they had no pending cases against them.
He also reminded the court that the alleged wrongdoing was not a very serious one and that to deny bail for an offence that carries the sentence of a fine would be prejudicial to the two accused.
Following the argument, Magistrate Maphosa pronounced that she would reserve her judgement until Friday 24th October at 11.15pm. Attempts by the defence to bring the ruling forward were rebuffed with the claims that ?the court is very busy.?
The on-going detention of Jenni Williams and Magodonga Mahlangu and the delaying tactics and machinations of the state are a clear violation of their rights and the power-sharing agreement signed by the political parties in September 2008. It is further evidence that ZANU PF has no desire to act in good faith.
WOZA therefore calls on all friends in the region and internationally to protest the ongoing detention of Williams and Mahlangu, particularly ahead of the SADC meeting on Zimbabwe next week.
As I listened to the live coverage of the signing, I was struck by consistent absences in the reporting as well as in what could not comfortably be used in the interest of the celebrated moment. One reporter, live outside the venue in Harare, noted that even as the ink was drying on the paperwork, a group of MDC women approached him to say they had been attacked by ZANU-PF male youths moments before. I was somewhat relieved that this was a radio, rather than a television broadcast because I did not want to see more brutalised bodies. I could not help noticing that this information was quickly passed over.
I recoil from the sight of more bruised and bloodied bodies not because of what Gail Smith has called ‘compassion fatigue in relation to the crisis in Zimbabwe,’ but because there are other ways to make sense of our continent. A.C. Fick insists that when we privilege particular forms of evidence over others ‘we run the risk of giving the former more power than they already have in our world.’ Therefore, we trap ourselves in a certain cycle, since ‘we are educated to understand the world in particular terms.’ Furthermore, we remain so accustomed to our particular view that we completely miss the presence of other events and ‘critical languages’ in the very same moment in which we attempt to understand. Part of what we have grown accustomed to is the near total elision of women’s lives, contributions and agency from large political events.
Consequently, I turned away from the coverage I had been obsessively following in between teaching, and reflected on what was unfolding through other events I have access to. Sometimes it helps to turn away in order to better make sense of what we are in the midst of. This is the approach I brought to my reading of the text of the power-sharing agreement signed on Monday 15 September.
In August, I formed part of a group of South African women who went on a feminist solidarity trip to Zimbabwe. The excursion was coordinated by activist and international relations and development expert Bunie Matlanyane Sexwale, and divided into a group that went to Harare and one that flew to Bulawayo. My group, the Harare group, included the essayist Gail Smith, as well as poets Lebogang Mashile and Gertrude Fester. We went to have conversations with a variety of women’s and civil society groups; unionists, students, health activists, law and human rights activists and so on. This trip clarified many of the niggling questions that had been plaguing me in previous years. The Johannesburg office of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition had made the trip possible, also offering us insights into what we might encounter upon arrival. Among us, Bunie was the only feminist who was personally familiar with the different Zimbabwean epochs.
To the extent that it had been impossible to live in South Africa without reflecting on Zimbabwe constantly, the trip followed numerous conversations with people more familiar than I with the crisis in Zimbabwe. Two artist friends, one a filmmaker and the second a novelist, who had grown up in Zimbabwe as South Africans in exile, noted upon returning from visits recently that this was a different Zimbabwe from the one they knew. There was sadness in one’s eyes and anger etched onto the face of the other. My child’s day-mother, herself Zimbabwean, had remarked upon return from an earlier trip that her homeland made her despair. Colleagues commented on how fatigued they were at being asked to comment about their home country at every turn. I was careful to listen to information volunteered, but not to pry and further exhaust them. Only one said ‘things are not the worst they have ever been.’
I had questions raised by other areas of information as well. Where were the women in all the coverage of Zimbabwe, in the negotiations, in the interviews broadcast, among the experts explaining and helping the continent and the world make sense of the crisis? I know from reading, watching and from interactions with feminists from the continent over the years that Zimbabwe has a very strong women’s movement. How is it that I was hearing so little about what women were doing, when they were not being brutalised, inside Zimbabwe?
The trip was to help me grapple better with some of these struggles.
Unfortunately, it also raised many more. Very few of the new questions are addressed in the resolution we are all invited to celebrate. The Harare we arrived in at the end of August brought different worlds into collision. In a very public sense, it was the Harare in which the (Women of Zimbabwe Arise) WOZA 14 trial was scheduled to start, after many postponements. These are women considered so dangerous that the Zimbabwean State imagines their varied activism treasonous. This was also the Harare which staged the opening of the new parliament, during which MDC leaders, among them the leader of Senate Sekai Holland, shouted for Mugabe to go back to the talks so much that he was visibly flustered as he tried to open parliament.
When Holland agreed to meet us in a public place, with unionist and former MDC Women’s Assembly Chair, Lucia Matibenga, the disbelief was palpable on the faces of many young Zimbabweans in the Harare CBD location where we met. There was no question that both women were recognised. As they explained to us, it was unusual for powerful Zimbabwean politicians to be seen in a food court. Holland and Matibenga had both been driven underground by the physical and other attacks instigated by ZANU-PF and other agents of state sanctioned violence. They shared some of these experiences with us. But more so, and interspaced with a wicked sense of humour shared by both, they articulated a very clear vision for a new Zimbabwe. These were women who demonstrated what Pregs Govender has called ‘insubordinated spirit’, in their actions, incisive analysis of power and in rising after being personally attacked. I was saddened by the fact that as powerful and active as they have been, even these women’s names were often lost in the reporting of what occurs in Zimbabwe.
I wonder how much of such voices we will hear in the future, given the bizarre half-protected freedom of speech as articulated in Article 19 of the agreement signed on Monday. Recognising the necessity for freedom of speech in Zimbabwe, the article nonetheless opens doors for dismissing certain media outlets if they are ‘foreign government funded external radio stations broadcasting into Zimbabwe’ since these ‘are not in Zimbabwe’s national interest.’ What about radio stations operated by Zimbabweans in exile as one of the few ways to contest state-controlled media outlets? So what if another government or its agencies fund them? What if that government is Botswana’s? How will the stated desire to ensure ‘the opening up of the airwaves and ensuring the operation of as many media houses as possible’ translate in a context where ZANU-PF youths allegedly attack people outside the signing?
<read the rest of the analysis at Pambazuka