When I was growing up, whenever an abusive husband battered his wife, the best she could do was either, keep quiet and accept her fate (even blaming herself as having ‘deserved’ the brutality as punishment for something she had done wrong), or she could inform her in-laws, or the police.
The best she could expect after informing these relatives, or law enforcement agents, was some family gathering ‘dare’, or a meeting with the police community relations and liaison officer – where they would try to resolve this injustice through mediation with the husband, at worst, or simply rebuking him, at best – with the hope, and even promise, that he would never repeat his abusive ways.
More likely, than not, the husband would spend the next few days, or weeks, or even months acting the reformed man – being very friendly, spending more time with his wife and children, helping around the house, and the more romantic ones would even bring their wives some roses, and buy them presents – yet, sooner, rather than later, he would revert to his old habits, find fault with his wife, and brutalize her again… usually, with more viciousness, and vengefulness – even bringing up all the baggage from the past, and accusing her of disrespecting and embarrassing him by reporting his sadistic acts to his relatives, or the police.
This time around, usually due to pertrifying fear, she would most probably keep quiet about the abuse, or, if brave enough, run back to the family, or law enforcement agents – and the whole sad vicious cycle repeats itself again, and again, and again…most likely for the rest of her life, or, if unfortunate, she is maimed or killed.
The question would then be, “Why did those she ran to – the family, or police – not do more, particularly, by having this abuser held accountable, and prosecuted?”
Well, in my growing up, we had a very troubling thing called, ‘domestic issue’ – which, basically meant that, whatever happened within the home, was no one else’s business.
In other words, a more physically powerful husband could savagely beat up his weaker and defenceless wife with sadistic impunity – as all anyone else could do was merely mediate, and hope for the best – and, this ‘mediation’ was only possible if the husband himself approved…and if he refused, then absolutely no one could ‘interfere’ in his household ‘internal affairs’.
Everyone had to follow proper ‘protocol’, and know how to properly approach him, and conduct themselves, in a ‘diplomatic’ manner – otherwise, they would not be granted access, and the wife would simply be left to endure untold gruesome ‘hell on earth’, at the cold-hearted hands of the man she once sincerely believed loved her, and would protect her from any harm…yet, has turned into her greatest danger.
Does this all sound eerily familiar?
Yes, maybe this has happened in your own homes, or families, or to your friends, and neighbors – but, for the people of Zimbabwe, this is an all too familiar nightmare that has haunted them for as long as they can dare remember, most specifically at the cold-blooded and murderous hands of their own government – which, they also believed genuinely loved them, and would protect them, but has ended up being their gravest and most present danger.
Yet – just like the abused, battered, and defenceless wife – when they cry out for immediate help from their ‘relatives’ in the region, or ‘law enforcement agents’ globally, all they receive are flimsy amd cosmetic ineffectual ‘diplomacy’ and ‘protocol’, as their ruthless abuser is treated with kid gloves, through endless and meaningless envoys, missions, and mediation.
Who in Zimbabwe can ever forget how hundreds of opposition supporters were heinously butchered in 2008, whilst the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) meekly looked on, whilst the then South African president Thabo Mbeki, who had been tasked with mediating in the crisis, deceptively and shamefully declared that, “there was no crisis in Zimbabwe”?
Furthermore, who can not see what is currently taking place in the country – when ordinary defenceless citizens accused of defying COVID-19 lockdown laws, investigative journalists exposing grand corruption involving the highest echelons of power, as well as opposition, labour, and human rights activists, are being persecuted, brutalized, abducted, tortured, sexually abused, and some being shot dead?
Yet, what are our regional, continental, and global institutions mandated with dealing with such serious violations of international law doing?
When Zimbabwe authorities are blatantly breaching the country’s own 2013 Constitution, in addition to the 1981 African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, 2007 African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, and 2001 SADC Protocol on Peace, Defence and Security – should they not be held accountable, without fear or favor?
However, so far, what the suppressed and subjugated defenceless people of Zimbabwe – who have suffered more than enough injustice at the hands of their own leaders – have broken-heartedly witnessed from regional, continental, and international bodies, has been deafening silence, at worst, and some weak and emasculated missions being sent, who have allowed themselves to be kicked around by the perpetrators, and denied meeting with the victims of this brutality.
Let us not forget that, the old days of the abusive and barbarous husbands hiding behind ‘domestic issues’, ‘protocol’, and ‘diplomacy’ have long since gone – as, the enactment of anti domestic violence laws, has made this a criminal offence, whereby, law enforcement agents no longer need the perpetrator’s permission to ‘interfere’, but are legally obliged to hold him accountable.
The same applies to international relations. No government, accused to being in violation of regional, continental, and international law should be permitted to literally get away with murder, as it should be held answerable for its crimes.
As much as no one is expecting some forceful invasion of Zimbabwe – nonetheless, we would expect to, at least, see some seriousness in upholding regional, continental, and international rule of law – as what is currently prevailing is nothing short of pure window-dressing, which is clearly meant to deceive the world into believing that something was being done.
The people of Zimbabwe are also human beings, who deserve justice, happiness, freedom, and prosperity – since they are not inferior to any other lives that the world has been loudly standing up for, as #ZimbabweanLivesMatter.
© Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, author, speaker. Please feel free to contact him on WhatsApp/Call: +263733399640 / +263715667700, or Calls Only: +263782283975, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.