« back
The last Colony of Africa

30.09.2022 | Nomazulu Thata

The last colony of Africa

Dear Mr. Sibanda,

I wish to express my sincere gratitude for the article you wrote on the 8th of August 2018 on Bulawayo24, applauding women who courageously speak out on the injustices they see and experience in their societies and in families disadvantaging women and children. These are women who are whistle-blowers brave enough to say that not all is normal in our homes and societies. Your article uplifted our burdened souls; the fact that there is a man in our society who appreciates gender activism is great. Thank you for your courage.

The political independence and freedom of Africa are not only a prerogative for men but for women and girl-children. Women are not free: we are languishing in the annuls of culture, bondage, subjugation, and slavery. To recognize decolonization of Africa as the liberation of the continent of Africa is to miss the point. European colonialism was removed, however, other forms of colonialism; gender colonialism remained intact. Decolonization should never be seen as a continental blanket of freedom and liberated Africa: instead, it confirms what according to Athenian Socrates terms: “freedom is exclusively for men and not for women and slaves”.

It takes courage to take a brave position to embrace the women's cause if you are a man in our societies. Your article proved to me that you are above the narrow confines of misogynistic and patriarchal confines. Our customs and traditions reduce women to mere silhouetted personalities. To say we are marginalized is a term mild to comprehend gender imbalance at home and in public spaces. Fighting for gender rights, and gender emancipation of women in the African continent will be to free the last colony of Africa. We consider ourselves as the last colony that demands gender equality in our lifetime.

Perpetrators of violence and oppression of women are sadly not only done by men only but by women equally, making our situation even more challenging. Women in some cases are custodians of patriarchal norms and tradition. They are given the power to insult and curse women who want to make a difference. The right of a husband to beat his wife physically and intimidate her is deeply entrenched in our homes, sometimes supported by women. A woman who is not obedient to her husband must be punished. It is those chosen women who enjoy a special status in society, who condone men's domination, tolerate, and pretend not to see violence against brave "whistle-blowers."  

Whistleblowers are women who dare to say; "not all is well in homes and societies." There is child sexual abuse: there is a woman who is sexually abused, and there is a woman who is subject to heckling and denigration by women. These are the women who are given powers by the societies to deal with " Whistleblowers. Whistleblowers are the women who alert the authorities that a woman next door suffers domestic violence daily, risking their life for the sake of the poor woman who does not have a voice; cannot seek police protection for fear of her life. Corporal punishment at home it is accepted as a measure of conflict resolution.

Whistleblowers are segregated from other women who are given “special patriarchal recognition. They are not greeted at marketplaces, funerals, and weddings because they do not belong! According to the UN-CEDAW, violence against women goes beyond beatings: it means women are raped in their marital homes: it means forced marriages, dowry-related violence, sexual harassment at workplaces, forced abortions, and trafficking of women resulting in forced prostitution. Let's think about Zimbabwean women who landed in Kuwait not so long ago, a classic example of women trafficking. Let's also think about child marriages that take place every day because of abject poverty in our societies; Young girls are sacrificial lambs to be sent for “[i]slaughter.” It is the young girls who are dumped at marketplaces and turn into street children overnight. A crime against humanity.

We are lucky in Zimbabwe, there is no tradition that practices genital cutting, a culture in some African countries north of us. We must ask ourselves pertinent questions about who performs clitoris cutting of young girls. It is the women, the custodians of those patriarchal-cultural practices. Some girls do not survive the genital ritual; they die due to infection, urinary incontinence, and other complications related to genital cutting. There is an international agreement that bans practices that perpetuate practices of genital cutting done by the women themselves, to please the patriarchal systems.    

Coming to the Zimbabwean situation: I hasten to say that I was contacted by Moses Chamboko: a compatriot of mine: we have worked together in politics on several portfolios. He advised women, to regroup and fight collective discrimination of men against women, especially in public offices. He was appalled by the labeling of women as second-class entities, calling women prostitutes if women did not agree with the general sentiments or men's rudeness, arrogance, and patronizing attitudes towards women on social media. He promised his commitment to assisting women to give a good fight for their rightful places and, he thinks women deserve respect as an important niche in societies worldwide.

I was humbled by Chamboko's solemn commitment to be part of the struggle to emancipate ourselves from men's domination in Zimbabwe. Mr. Joanne Mhlanga is active with children's rights and has written articles widely about the abuse of children and girl-children especially. Lenox Lizwe Mhlanga is passionate about the plight of domestic servants and how they are abused by their employers: how their conditions are of slaves no less. Domestic service is a work ethic introduced by colonialists. Why it still exists after 40 years of independence is not excusable.

I am deeply grateful for these men however few, for their irrevocable assistance in fighting for our gender cause. As you can see, I hold on to those men who assist in our cause:  

It is becoming an accepted tradition to denigrate and insult women in private and public offices by male politicians notwithstanding. Men generally and casually think that gender parity is to be adhered to as per Sustainable Development Goals and should never be put into practice. when they see few women in public positions, far from the truth. However, the truth is that public positions are dominated by men in politics. Gender parity is a pie in the sky, and a big challenge for the generations to come. 

Mr. Sibanda, your concerns are genuine, and you highlight what we must cope with daily. We are denied the equal enjoyment of our rights as women, we are given lesser status defined to us by our customs and traditions. When you assist in our fight to emancipate us from man domination, it makes it easier to break the bonds of patriarchal dominance and subservience to men. Women's oppression is silent and loud, overt, and covert. Gender discrimination is legitimatized by societies and governments.     

Our social media is awash with cases of domestic violence resulting in femicide in some cases. We experience injustices meted out on widows after the death of their husbands: the widow is traditionally packaged to another willing brother of the deceased husband without her consent.  Women are properties of the family she is married to. In some cases, if a widow refused the arrangement of remarrying a relative in the family, as punishment, she will be deprived of spousal inheritance by the family. Getting married to a family means you are the property of that family according to customs.

The economic downturn is another factor that leaves women and girl-children in dire situations. There is no employment in Zimbabwe; this leaves women to cope with violent marriages for financial and social security in the marriage. They would rather they coped with the husband who routinely batters her than for the woman to leave the marriage to face the crude economic-down-turn induced poverty alone.  

The biggest challenge we have as women in Zimbabwe is changing the social attitudes and cultural belief systems that reduce and compress women. We must have more women on board to assist us in this exercise to impart our people values that respect mankind. It is to the benefit od everyone in the community equally if a woman and girl-child is afforded respect and freedom to develop their potential fully.  

Mr. Sibanda, as you can see, we have a lot of work on our hands. We refuse victimhood in our lives hence we are actively confronting all forms of oppression head-on by redefining mechanisms to protect ourselves and fight for gender justice. Our work is networked with other women's organizations globally pushing for the adoption of international treaties and instruments such as CEDAW; the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women established in 1979. It commits governments worldwide to change discriminatory practices and laws that put women in a disadvantaged position socially, culturally, and economically.

By all civilized standards, how do you comprehend men who deduce sexual pleasures from children as old as two, three, four, or five years, sometimes to cure HIV/AIDS disease? How do we comprehend the actions of a woman who gave her daughter to be sexually abused by a beastly man, she desperately needed cash to go to South Africa for vending. She was present in the hut when the man was defiling her 5-year-old daughter; she was present in the hut to make sure the man finishes his sexual activity and is remunerated.  Now is this still gender-based violence? Should we call it by giving it another name: gender-same-gender-sexual abuse against toddlers?

Women and children and toddlers are raped almost daily by people they trust most; fathers, stepfathers grandfathers’ brothers, and relatives, those people who were given the authority over the underage girls and young women. When men get infected with HIV/AIDS, who is blamed, the woman! When men want to cure their HIV/AIDS; they are told to seek virgin girls and young women for a cure, even toddlers and babies are not spared.

There is one section of women who are suffering silently. It is women who are domestic workers, a colonial tradition kept intact by black governments. The plight of domestic servants is dire. There is some crudeness of life experienced by domestic workers in Zimbabwe. To say domestic work ethic is a scam, and it is untrue: domestic workers are slaves in Zimbabwe homes. (Can we also say that prostitution is a work ethic?) Domestic work should be scraped as labor services. This a job description introduced by colonialists. We cannot keep citizens as slaves in homes in the second Millennium!

Liberation movements and the role of women in the struggle for independence

Mr. Sibanda lets visit the period in which Zimbabwe fought for liberation, a guerrilla war of the 1970s.  It must be put on record that the armed liberation struggle was the worst form of reclaiming independence from the colonialists because freedom wars disadvantaged and criminalized African women adversely. It is my hope that there should never be military conflicts of any kind in Africa because of the vulnerable niche: women and children are the ones who pay the highest price.

Sexual violence against women and young girls, like the one experienced in the freedom struggle, mostly in Zanu camps in Mozambique will continue to exist because men are socialized into believing that women are sexual objects to men. Under-aged girls became goalkeepers, standbys to men's sexual demands in the liberation struggle.  

When it comes to sexual abuse of women, liberation movements; both Zapu and Zanu are found wanting; they are answerable to abuse and rape. Girls and women died in the crossfire because they have been abducted from their homes, some were even forced to leave their homes and join the liberation war with the freedom fighters to neighboring countries sorely as sex mules on their way to the designated freedom camps and in the camps where they were kept as sex mules.

Is that not the irony of history? When the young girls were used and abused, rotated, and exchanged from one freedom fighter to the next, they have termed not only loose girls but criminals as they caused deaths to war commanders and freedom fighters: abducted girls and young women are used as sex mules are criminalized thereafter!

Most girls were abducted from schools under the pretext they consented to go to war and fight for their freedom. Many women died after multiple rape ordeal from several freedom fighters: they committed suicide: some women got unwanted pregnancies, tried non-clinical methods of abortion, and died due to uncontrolled bleeding and infections in the bush in the absence of clinics and medical care. All these stories, atrocious as they sound, must be told without fear of retribution.

During the struggle for liberation, there was the absence of a law against violence on women and young girls in war zones. When freedom fighters entered the war zones and came across girls and young women, they automatically felt it was their right to rape them. At the front, there was absolute lawlessness taking place in most villages: we can also say there was jungle law. They even ordered villagers to cook for them, and ordered them to slaughter the last goat or chickens. After meals they selected young women, they found good for them, mostly young ones were preferred. "THEY WANTED IT, THEY NEEDED IT, THEY HAD IT THEIR WAY" Otherwise it was loud all-night pungwes resulting in alarming Smith's soldiers coming bombed civilian villages mostly, freedom fighters will have sneaked away leaving the villagers vulnerable to military punishment and abuse by the Rhodesian soldiers.

These are stories that should be told about the freedom war in Zimbabwe. Rape is closely related to conflicts, rape was committed before independence: punitive, rape, exchange rape, and involuntary abduction of individuals as sex slaves. Under normal circumstances, war commanders are supposed to face crimes against humanity meted on women and girls during the struggle for independence in Zimbabwe.

Mr. Sibanda, women should fight against the dehumanization of women, using sex to reduce them, using sex to insult women, and using sex to shame women. Women were victims of war. This sexual script must be broken. We must say it that the struggle for freedom justified men to sexually abuse women violently. To be cowed by those sex accusations and be put into "our places, we must refuse this. We must say it loudly that some men are guilty of crimes against humanity, sexual crimes committed in the name of liberation.

Rape and violence have become a culture in Zimbabwe

Women children and toddlers are raped daily by the people they trust most; fathers, stepfathers grandfathers’ brothers, and relatives, people who were given the authority over the girls and young women. When men get infected with HIV who is blamed, the woman! When men want to cure HIV/AIDS, they go to virgin girls and young women for a cure, even babies are not spared. There is no cure for HIV/AIDS by sexual intercourse with virgins, this should be known by a society known to be literate in the whole of Africa.

There is a culture of fear nurtured from birth in a girlchild; duty and female role performing in our societies. The definition of a "good woman" starts at the early age of upbringing (gender-based upbringing). You should adore and respect any man, bow down before him because he is better than you by birth! As a result, women do not report violence against themselves as they are taught never to report irregularities in the marriage home, if a little girl was raped, she should be good and never report it, if a woman was beaten by her husband, she should never report; a good woman should endure everything that goes with the marriage to be called a "good married woman." Gender-based violence no less!

Sex at home, in married bedrooms, is meant for the man and not the woman. A woman who complains about sex inadequacies in bedroom politics is deemed a prostitute. A woman is not supposed to know about sex, but a man should know more than a woman. (No standard of measurement) “He” is only the one entitled to sexual enjoyment and not the woman. A man could outsource sex outside his marriage: he should have "more if he so wanted and this is normal; a "good woman" is supposed to cope. She is allowed to complain but must remain intact in the marriage institution and cope with it silently. The answer given to her is that "Most men do it anywhere, what is her problem!" This is clear gender-based violence against women.

The established order in Zimbabwe is oppressive and an impediment to change. Women should be the ones to defy this subordinate if we really mean to liberate ourselves from these macho-dominated societies. We should seek self-fulfillment and go through a journey that will discover our potential. Women should take the feminine dimension of poverty seriously and tackle poverty as it affects us all.

We have focused on men for too long as if we virtually exist. Women should be smart enough and engage in conventions and challenge the structural violence against, norms that reduce them and dare to crush those retrogressive cultural definitions that define us as less. Let's refuse to be silenced, let's shame pedophiles, women bashers, and gender-based abusers. Let the women of Zimbabwe define a new cultural logic; cultivate values and new beliefs for our coming girl-child generations. Let's refuse men-superiority illogic masquerading as a virtue in our midst.

Let us risk insults and embrace change in our lives and those of our girl-children. We refuse our future generations of girls to continue to be packaged commodities like us. Let's engage in female discourses that talk about female independence and redefine traditional values that are long overdue. We must put a big effort to critique these appropriations of cultural discourses, dare to cross them and effect change for the betterment of our girl-children if it's too late for us! A fillip to change traditions demands a multiplication of many women who are determined to cross-cultural values and replace them with new and modern ones. With these hopes, a mass character can develop to change our societies for the better.

The independence of Zimbabwe overshadowed serious issues relating to the abuse of women during the struggle. Women too are scared to come forward and tell how they were abused by the people who purported to liberate them. Violence against women, girls, and children today is partly the product of our past liberation conflict, the struggle to liberate Zimbabwe: women and girls paid the absolute price. This country can heal if women come forward and tell their stories. The coming dispensations have a big task of demilitarizing the minds of comrades and sensitizing and respecting women, girls, toddlers, and babies. Sex with a virgin is not a cure for HIV/AIDS: A supposedly educated society like Zimbabwe must know this.

New thinking about men: but very few of them

Some men today, however few, understand disprivileged positions in marriages: they empathize with us. Most women feel downtrodden when in heart-breaking situations.

We must celebrate this extraordinary gesture from those few men: let us not take it for granted. Changing gender inequalities and gender profiling is not an overnight fight: it needs the participation of men too, a revolutionary process.

We evidently see a process unfolding; not all men are misogynistic. Some of them have read tomes of books, reading about gender parity: gender equality at work and at home. There is a lot of information on social media accessible to almost 40% of the population. These men have seen their sisters and mothers leaving marriages of years with nothing but a suitcase of clothes if there was separation, divorce, or bereavement of a husband in the home. These men have seen femicide in their families: a sister, or a mother, or an auntie would have killed: died, murdered in cold blood! These men will not sit, watch, and wait but act and react. Such are the dividends of enlightenment, and we applaud these developments.

Another area still needs working on is standing up for our rights in homes, in societies. Women's rights belong to us. Let's find our voice amid chaos. It is not the right of men to tell women they are good or bad: we should tell ourselves that we are inherently good. Give a thought, if a man manipulates a woman to insult other women whom they think is a threat to the family, clan, community, and societies; Say no. Let's give an ear to a woman shouting at top of her voice because she thinks she is not heard. Those are whistleblowers that give shrills, a sign that something is not right in the family or in the society, "you are hiding an abomination, criminal acts done by fathers and social fathers of the family or clan"

The culture of silence is dangerous to our children and young women. When a man sexually abuses children, stand up for the vulnerable and not conceal the criminal acts at home. We need brave women who must expose criminals in society. Does it surprise us then that the culture of rape is just embedded in our societies? Our history is marred by sexual violence on women and girl-children. Sexual violence has become pervasive in all sections of society.

This is evidenced in the social media that sustains facts that: every 5 minutes, a baby, a toddler, a child a girl, a young woman, a mother, and a grandmother is sexually abused and assaulted. It is undeniable that rape is now the culture, a pandemic. You need to trace the origins of it; you will find that it came with the liberation struggle, from liberation movements that purport to have liberated us from colonialism.

Women’s bodies are a prerogative of men

Do men have authority over the bodies of women? Are women's bodies a prerogative of men-husbands? The answer is hell no. Our bodies are our own: we women own our bodies. No man has the right to claim ownership of a woman's body and determine what he wants from a woman's private body. Alone if a woman did not feel like having s*x that day and if forced: that is should be considered rape. We have day-to-day rape going on in our homes in silence, a woman cannot say no to her married husband, she has to be raped. There is no amount of lobola/roora that can buy the body of a woman. Period!

Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest rates of femicide cases in the whole world! In South Africa, every six hours a woman is killed by a husband or a partner, or an intimate male friend. Research reports also say that in Zimbabwe cases of femicide emanate from women who are accused of witchcraft by any member of the family. Some elderly women who may suffer from diseases like dementia go out in night not realizing that they are undressed. When members of the family see her wondering in her birth suit, the next possible reason why she is walking stark nak*d is that she is a witch: she gets hacked to death by axes or machetes. When such cases are heard by traditional headmen and chiefs, they support this killing because witchcraft is still an accepted practice. Violence and murder at home is accepted as a measure of conflict resolution to this day.

Highly talented women do suffer the same fate: an above-average woman is not wholly accepted in our societies. A woman must be less than a man intellectually. If a woman shows of intellect; she is outshining her husband, and there won't be any peace in the home, or problems. We have read about the fate of women at home and in the Diaspora and how such women met their fate by kitchen knives or anything that will leave women without their souls. There are criminal cases going on in the UK and Canada of women murdered by their spouses because they happened to be smarter than the spouse.

Gender profiling of young women

Bride price roora/lobola, child marriages, and virg*nity testing are so outdated and out of line with the enlightenment era:  they put women and girls in a vulnerable position; they are to a certain extent the root cause of femicide. Roora/lobola subordinates women, putting a woman at a disadvantage because she already goes to her marriage as a second-class persona.

The culture of silence puts women at a disadvantage: concealing gender-based violence does extend the suffering of women. According to research, gender-based violence serves to perpetuate men-power and control sustained by absolute silence. A "good woman" does not tell anyone that she is abused in a matrimonial home. When women are murdered by their partners, it's when one wishes she could have spoken, and advised, too late.

Women of all ages and girl-children experience sexual violence, physical violence, emotional violence, and psychological violence. Their vulnerability, coming from cultural and traditional practices perpetuates this subservient position of a woman it did no matter how old. Women are addressed as minors and must behave like a minor toward men! It is also accepted that women and girls can be physically punished by fathers and brothers and husbands leading to femicide in most cases.

Gender equity also means looking after our children respectfully. Girl children are given the worst form of treatment in homes than boys. When our girls grow up, they do not have self-esteem, they grow up struggling to be heard, or seen as human beings in the first place. They only enjoy being a woman when there are negotiations for marriage. The girl will be "sold" to the man she is marrying. At this home she does not have a full status of belonging to the home until she proves herself: working hard, considering herself last to all members of the family she is married to. How painful!

A good African woman is a woman who is smiling all the time: A woman who laughs and who is kind to all. Can that be possible? Is society not asking too much from a woman? A woman is not supposed to have feelings at all: Feelings belong to the man. A woman who expresses some feelings is a "troublesome" woman and must be corporally punished.: read our social media and you find horror stories of fatally battered women and girl children: those rebels who demanded change in their lives got killed in cold blood.

Ntombi Langa Radio Project in Bremen: why radio in Bremen?

Mr. Sibanda, it is in this loaded context I am setting up a radio for women in southern Sahara Africa. The aims and objectives of this radio project are to strengthen the social position of women and girls and to establish a reliable platform for women in South Sahara Africa.

The programs are intended to provide information on health care: Covid-19, HIV/AIDS, protection against unwanted pregnancies, and other chronic diseases. encourage women to fight for gender justice and human rights, the right to self-determination on girl-circumcision. provide information on economic opportunities and gender equality.

Through the radio project, women and journalists from different countries can share their experiences and stories to promote the much-desired transformation in gender roles and gender equality.

The news about African women and selected programs on women and girls will be broadcast to all countries in the SSA and can also be received globally. Recipients and program producers are women, but men are also addressed and possibly participate too. Africa's future is female because 70% of poverty in Africa is experienced by women. Therefore, the themes of poverty reduction and elimination should be the main focus of Ntombi-Langa radio programs.

The radio will make special contributions to women and girls: a forum for women, a platform for women, where gender-sensitive themes are openly discussed. Successful women's programs are emphasized as they aim to strengthen the role-model position of women and girl-children. through experience, we know how many roles the radio in SSA can play and the impact on communities it can have.

"Let the woman have a chance to voice her mind, give the woman a platform to share what she has."

Women’s radio project in SSA is a platform that seeks answers for women and girl-child empowerment. It will be a voice means that spells out the awareness for women and girls and their right to empowerment and self-determination and gives a wake-up call to action. Ntombi Langa Radio is a platform that seeks to understand obstacles that impede women from accessing equal to resources and provide advice to eliminate and minimize such obstacles to better the situation of women and girls.

Ntombi Langa Radio project for SSA is a platform that will sensitize the need to address cultural issues such as roora/lobola, the rights of the women to inherit a deceased husband’s land, and any other property related to matrimony, and these to be addressed and debated at the national level. It will be a voice outlet that will demand free education for all, girls and boys, men and women who need the education to improve their lives; a platform that will demand free health care for all, a fundamental right to all citizens. In such radio sessions, women will dare to ask why our youth are opting for military training as the only way to get employment whereas there are so many other options for them to do in a rich resourced African continent.

Ntombi Langa Radio project for SSA is a platform that will sensitize the demand for fair land distribution to alleviate poverty and reclaim the “breadbasket” tags that the countries enjoyed, ironically in the colonial years. It is a voice means that will demand that the richness of the continent and the natural resources be shared equally with all citizens. It is a continental voice outlet that will demand 50% women representation in all public offices and promote affirmative action to progressively reduce the gap between men and women. Above all, it will be these navigated live sessions that will promote and articulate debates and argumentation technic and talents of women and girls across all political and ethnic divides.

SSA women are, at the end of the day, women with all that that it implies: nurturers, providers, drivers of micro-economies, and keeping the economy of the entire continent afloat. They continue to remake family units in the most adverse situations. It is therefore pertinent for the women to demand a new set of definitions and recognition of their contributions to the nations. They demand role integration that encourages broader mental and emotional growth in men and women equally.

Women should not have their potential for self-determination controlled and predetermined by the opposite sex. In most situations where women are heading households, they cannot still be told to step back and let the men lead the household. To achieve gender equality women must stand up and demand those gender equalities.

« back