made worse by the partisan distribution of food. Recently we spoke to a group in Matabeleland north. We said that the mandate of Women of Zimbabwe Arise [WOZA] was to go out and demonstrate and that we weren’t sure how that mandate would come into a rural atmosphere.
And they said, ‘Yes, it would. Because when those trucks come in, we need to eat the food that is in those trucks and we need to be able to learn about passive resistance and defiance so we can make sure that we can get that food, too. If we need to buy it, we need to buy it, but we all need equality in distribution of food and so we need to learn about how to get that food.’
Martine: Is the politicisation of food really taking place?
Jenni: Absolutely. And not only in terms of food, but in terms of access to health care as well. In January, we were devoting our activism to education, and the women said that you aren’t allowed to get access to the hospital unless your school fees are paid up. People are no longer regarded as human beings in Zimbabwe. They are basically regarded as numbers and people to rule over, and that’s the bottom line. A lot of these issues are about control.
Our theme is: ‘The power of love can overcome the love of power.’ We are giving people hope. We are telling them: ‘It’s time that you actually arise. Arise and shine in Zimbabwe.’
And in the atmosphere of daily survival, of how are you going to put food on the table, we find Zimbabwean women desperately need something to give them a sense of sisterhood, a sense of belonging in their suffering.
We have so little to hold on to. So we are starting to look at the very basic things:such as love and being strong in oneself.
Martine: What can we in the diaspora do to make a difference?
Jenni: You can hold civic society, NGO’s, and churches accountable for the promises they make in their mandates, in their mission statements, despite the NGO bill, the unjust laws [like POSA and AIPPA]. We’ve got to stand together, put our shoulder to that wheel of defiance, and find a way to give people equality in obtaining assistance.
In that way, maybe we can break Zanu (PF)’stranglehold on resources. Civic society has to get out there onto the frontline physically. They have got to say, ‘This is what Jesus would do and here I am, his disciple, and I’ve come to defy anyone taking this food out of the hands of the needy.
Martine Stemerick spent three weeks in May and June documenting famine, drought, repression, and the Murambatsvina. Her human rights documentary is called: Zimbabwe – No Secrets, No Lies.