The ‘naked’ truth

BY GRACE KWINJEH
The largely paranoid regime of Robert Mugabe is showing all signs of fear of the peoples' resistance against its despotic rule, as Zimbabweans in both rural and urban areas brace themselves to reclaim their lost dignity as a people.

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The latest issue of the government mouthpiece, the Manica Post, has an article in which they claim that I have been enlisting the services of elderly women from the Makoni area to strip naked in front of law enforcement agents, during our planned non-violent protests. This, they claim, is taboo.
This response to the MDC’s largely successful rural outreach programme in Manicaland leaves no doubt that the regime knows its time is up. It does not question why the people would want to protest but only the method, thus acknowledging the opposition’s political influence in the province.
What is really taboo is the way Zanu (PF) has abused the rural folk for so long, with its show of contempt for the elderly through its policies that have left this constituency marginalized. In fact, our culture stipulates that we respect the elderly. We have an obligation to look after them into the old age till they die.
Chiefs, headmen, women and men from rural Zimbabwe who have come out in support of the MDC do not need us to mobilize them to any agenda that goes against their cultural beliefs or values. The poverty in which they languish does not need explaining, neither does the State’s tyranny.
During the rally at Temaruru Business Centre, I gave examples of the many methods of peaceful non-violent democratic resistance that citizens can engage in- such as commodity boycotts in South Africa under apartheid and the famous Green Belt Protests, led by Professor Wangari Muta Maathai, in Kenya. There are many things we can do in a non-violent manner to express our displeasure with the current regime.
For instance, the leadership of the MDC Women’s Assembly congregated in front of parliament during the official opening last week. We refused orders to sing Zanu (PF) songs or repeat its slogans, at which point members of the Central Intelligence Organisation, (CIO) led by one William Nhara targeted and threw some of us out of the Square. The point is that the women who participated democratically resisted Zanu (PF) and its machinery in a non-violent manner.
The women did not wave, shout or sing when Robert Mugabe passed, even as Zanu (PF) supporters tried to inject an air of pomp and ceremony. The women just stood there, hands down, and watched. The ratio of those who sloganeered as compared to those who just stood still clearly shows we outnumbered Zanu (PF) and its hired thugs.
This is the time to reclaim our dignity as a nation. If it means that as women we are going to strip down to our birthday suits, so be it. In fact this whole debate goes back to the patriarchal nature of our Zimbabwean society, which has relegated us to second class citizens. For who are men at the Manica Post and their Zanu (PF) male bosses, to dictate to us what the most dignified methods of protest are?
It is simply patronizing for the editor of the Manica Post to pose as a custodian of our cultural beliefs at a time when oppression has become part of that so-called used to strip women of our dignity.
It is a contradiction that the very vehicle used by the regime to propagate its hate and abuse against innocent citizens, especially the elderly, should now want to pose as a champion of their dignity. The lack of development in rural areas has impacted on elderly women more than any other group, stripping them of that very dignity.
Elderly women in Zimbabwe do not need me or the rest of the party leadership to persuade them to strip as a way of protest against the regime. In fact the article in the Manica Post has now put me under so much pressure from women all over the country, who want to know the time and place this ultimate protest will take place. They want to take their clothes off to show Mugabe they are tired of him.
Zimbabwean women, young and old, are tired of the incessant abuse of us by the Mugabe regime. What woman’s dignity can this regime claim to protect, when it is its very policies that see us today stand ‘naked’ in front of our respected ones?
There is no other ‘nakedness’ that can match the state of the Zimbabwean woman today.
What better dignified place can we demand in the world when there are begging bowls for us to receive donations of sanitary products from friends in the international community? I will not talk of birth control pills or the state of maternity wings in our public hospitals. Neither will I go into the statistics of the injustice being perpetrated against mothers and their new-born babies detained in the same hospitals for failing to settle their bills.
Thousands of Zimbabweans are dying each week, many more are finding their way back to the rural homes in search for a respectable way to die. Grandmothers have no rest.
What dignity can I as a young Zimbabwean woman celebrate when I am told that my life span has been shortened to 34 years? The lowest in the world.
No amount of paranoia from the Mugabe regime will stop us from freeing ourselves from its oppression, neither can our resolve to Save Zimbabwe be weakened. The rural folk feel as strongly about this those in the towns do.
And so when we do decide to strip ‘naked’ in protest against Zanu (PF)’s bigotry and tyranny, please understand it is only to reclaim our lost dignity.

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