When men are no longer men

I know what it is like to have nothing left of what you once had.

municipal-copLike most men, I am a fan of action movies. Guns, explosions, high speed car chases, van Damme kicks; these are the ingredients for great entertainment. Opponents of the action movie genre say television violence desensitises the minds of those who watch them. Perhaps that is true. But all my years of exposure to television violence could not have prepared me for what I saw last week.

Real life violence

In the most horrific two minutes I have ever lived through, a man – a very large man, who I place at about 100kgs – was caught on video, repeatedly attacking a defenceless woman, first with his hands, then with a brick and finally his feet. In this video, several men stand about, none of them particularly interested in stopping the savage beating. Another woman enters the fray – so often, it is women, the so called weaker sex, who intervene, while the men scratch themselves. But the woman who intends to prevent the assault from escalating into murder is herself attacked before her instinct for survival encourages her to flee. A reasonable person would expect that the diversion of chasing a different woman might have diffused the rage within the attacker. But, judging by his reaction, it seems to have only fuelled his savagery. He attacks the first woman with renewed vigour, kicking and hitting her with a brick. At one point he leaps into the air, landing his 100 plus kilograms of rage onto her prostrate body.

I know what it is like to have nothing left of what you once had.

Other scenes of violence

Before I had had a moment to recover from the horror video, discussions with a friend led to the story of a young man from Harare who, after allegedly failing to settle his debt with a sex worker, was dragged by the woman, out to the street, naked as the day he was born. The images of this incident on social media show a woman with her heckles up and a man, with the downcast eyes of shame, being dragged and apparently not fighting back. In attendance is the usual Zimbabwean crowd of gossip seekers, whose only skill is taking pictures for circulation on Facebook.

Can we blame poverty?

I know what it is like to have nothing left of what you once had.

A cynic once said that if you put shellfish in a bucket, they will eat each other’s limbs off. And if anyone of them was lucky enough to climb to the rim, in a bid to escape the imprisonment of the vessel, the other crabs would grab a limb and pull it back down. I have seen several of these videos. No doubt, the affluent suburbs of Borrowdale and Matsheumhlope have their fair share of violence. But it is often the poorest areas that provide the setting for blood-soaked fisticuffs over a few coins, if not shirt buttons.

The woman in the video is assaulted, leapt upon, trampled, kicked in the face and for what? It was not over the missing $15Billion and certainly not about the other millions of dollars to have vanished under the watch of the present government. Eyewitness accounts say the woman was beaten over a measly sum of $6. What does $6 buy in Harare? Perhaps just a kilogram of meat. A kilogram of steak is about the size of a man’s open palm, the same palm that repeatedly smacked a defenceless woman.

 

Blood doesn’t scare anyone

A few days prior to this incident, a Harare municipal policeman was struck by a rock thrown at the city council truck, while leaving the scene where he and his colleagues had confiscated the wares of vendors. Among all the reader comments that appear on the Facebook post, I could not find one sympathiser. If I had seen the perpetrator, would I have blown the whistle on him? Honestly, no.

What is the cause?

Everything is related. No incident occurs in isolation. A dripping tap can cause the death of a hundred people. You don’t believe me? Ask the man who is kept awake by the constant drip, drip, drip. Tired and bleary eyed, he gets behind the wheel of a bus the next morning, takes a nap and wakes up in ICU, while several of his passengers get scraped off their mangled seats before getting closed casket funerals. Everything is related.

Failed legal system

When the legal system has failed, owing to poor governance, the president, wishing to conceal the pestilence, starvation and deaths in the country’s overcrowded prisons, regularly releases convicts back into society, under the guise of “presidential pardon.” The result is corrupt, undermotivated law enforcement officers who can’t be bothered at all with arresting criminals and citizens who say “jere harityise, tinobuda paAmnesty” (prison is no big deal, I will get out at the next presidential pardon).

Unemployment

The ghastly video from last week also speaks of the level of unemployment. Rewind to 1999, most of the people lurking in the background, as the woman is beaten, would have been at work.

I know what it is like to have nothing left of what you once had. It is a story I have told too often. To repeat it would sound like a scratched CD, stuck on one verse.

Nothing to lose

No one knows his exact state of mind, when he beat up that woman. But it is a fair assumption to say that such rage is only seen in a man who has nothing to lose. The men of Zimbabwe, who are supposed to be the protectors and providers of their families, have been castrated by an inept and insensitive government. As a result of the post 2000 economic decline, children of school-going age are on the streets, selling bananas. For every one of these destitute children is a father eaten away from the inside by the anger of being unable to provide. This feeling of inadequacy manifests itself in violence and a callousness that was inherited from our oppressors. No, not the Rhodesian racists, not the slave traders, upon whom all blame is conveniently shovelled. But the “heroes” who became worse than the tyranny they fought.

When the water tanks and anti riot police come, these angry fathers are nowhere to be found. Why do they not direct their anger at the system that has cut away their manliness? Without the requisite manhood, they feel weak and, therefore, can only prey on women. The loss of their manhood seems to be the only plausible explanation for the rising cases of domestic violence – up 34% in 2015. The latest Zimbabwe Demographic Health Survey says 47% of women have suffered some form of domestic violence.

What is a man if he cannot provide? At best, just a figurehead, seated at the head of a table with not a crumb in sight. At worst, he is a monster who will devour those he is meant to protect.

My pen is capped.

Jerà

Twitter @JeraZW

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