OPPOSITION MDC legislators this week unsuccessfully tried to bring the case of incarcerated Harare West legislator Joana Mamombe (pictured) up for discussion in bid to get the youngest MP in the National Assembly out of prison.
Mamombe was thrown into Chikurubi prison last week on Thursday on the instigation of Harare magistrate Bianca Makwande pending a psychiatric examination to determine her suitability to stand trial in a treason case.
This was after she failed to attend a court hearing where she and two other female MDC Alliance (MDC-A) supporters, Cecilia Chimbiri and Netsai Marova, are accused by the state of faking their alleged abductions and torture.
After she failed to attend court, a warrant of arrest was issued despite that a clinician had certified that she was unfit to stand trial due to her mental state after she suffered depression. Mamombe is the youngest MP in the country after she became Harare West MP in 2018 at the age of 25 years.
MDC-A vice-president Lynette Karenyi (proportional representative MP) then made desperate attempts to get Mamombe’s issue into the National Assembly agenda by stating to the Speaker of the National Assembly Jacob Mudenda that her continued incarceration will discourage young women from participating in political activity as they will perceive it as very violent.
“My point of privilege comes out of the issue of 50/50 gender representation in parliament as stipulated by Section 17 of the constitution which stipulates gender parity in parliament, state enterprises and parastatals and other economic activities — and it is an issue pertaining to victimisation and torture of female politicians whereby, as a result, young women will not be encouraged to contest to become MPs,” Karenyi Kore said. “This is an issue whereby one of our youngest MPs Mamombe has been imprisoned …”
Before Karenyi Kore could finish her sentence, Mudenda stopped her saying that she was out of order.
“May you second a motion to be tabled by Goodlucky Kwaramba (Zanu PF MP and chairperson of the Parliamentary Women’s Caucus),” Mudenda said.
Kwaramba had said she will move a motion for implementation of the 50/50 gender representation at a later date.
MDC-A vice-chairperson Job Sikhala challenged the manner in which Mudenda had dismissed the Mamombe issue.
“I want to raise my concerns over the manner in which you dismissed an important issue raised by Karenyi Kore. The person that was arrested is an MP,” Sikhala said, but Mudenda also dismissed his pleas.
MDC-A MPs then resorted to tactfully debating the issue by raising questions of human rights and Mamombe’s arrest during any motion that was discussed in parliament, including issues of trade and investment.
Mbizo MP Settlement Chikwinya said: “No one will invest in a country where there is no respect of human rights. We have an MP who was sent to jail instead of being sent to a medical institution. Why not let the law take its course?”
But Mudenda said the matter was sub judice and cannot be debated in parliament.
“Why not come up with a motion on the Treaty on Torture and Inhuman Treatment so that you have ample time to debate those issues? At the moment, the matter of Mamombe is before the courts,” Mudenda said.
This comes at a time when the Research and Advocacy Unit (RAU), the Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCoZ) and the Gender Media Connect (GMC), supported by the Swedish Embassy, this week released a report on violence against women and politically motivated rape.
The report said there is need for the state to come up with a comprehensive violence prevention strategy to safeguard the well- being of women in Zimbabwe.
“Violence against women in Zimbabwe is condoned to the extent that it is now political culture to use women as a means to an end for political gain, especially during electoral processes. Therefore there are serious risks of women getting involved in politics, and the risks increase the more involved they become, especially if they assume leadership roles.”
The report said such violence on women in politics is a strategy to send threatening messages as well as provoke a response to the opposing side to instil fear and quell resistance.
The RAU report alleged there was also politically motivated rape on women, which was in three forms: extreme violence, gang rape and insertion of objects such as sticks and bottles into women’s private parts.
In 2009, RAU conducted a national study where out of a sample of 2 149 women, 2% indicated that they had experienced politically motivated rape, 3% reported that it had happened to a family member, and 16% knew of someone in the community that experienced it.