via Zimbabwe’s Unsung Heroes – The Zimbabwean 15.10.2015
Retired Anglican Bishop Sebstian Bakare, born in 1940, is an iconic figure in Zimbabwe whose work in the church and society has one connecting thread – quest for social justice and equality. Bishop Bakare has lived his entire life fighting for human rights, freedom and dignity for his people.
During the Liberation struggle in the 1970s he actively mobilised support for the struggle for independence because he considered the struggle to be just. However in the post-independence era he found himself sharply disagreeing with government over the deteriorating human rights situation.
In 1993 Sebastian Bakare published a book: My right to land, in the Bible and in Zimbabwe: A theology of land for Zimbabwe in which he asked President Mugabe when his government was going to fulfill the land promise.
Sebastian Bakare also castigated the use of violence in the 2000 and 2002 elections. When a political activist named Nolbert Kunonga assumed leadership of the Anglican Church in Zimbabwe and tried to illegally claim ownership of the properties owned by the Church in Zimbabwe, Bakare was requested to come out of retirement and become the Bishop of Harare in 2008.
He did so, and raised international awareness about the persecution of the Anglican Christians in Zimbabwe by the renegade Kunonga through the State security agents. On 10 November 2008, Bishop Bakare was awarded Sweden’s 2008 Per Anger Prize for his “committed work for human rights in a politically unstable Zimbabwe.” Bakare took the opportunity of the award to highlight the deteriorating situation in his country. “It is like a war, in the sense that there is total absence of peace,” Bakare told Swedish radio news about the conditions in Zimbabwe at the time.
While many clergy have decided to withdraw from the struggle for social justice and human rights, Bishop Bakare has remained principled and committed to building a peaceful and prosperous Zimbabwe. Currently he is coordinating the National Convergence Convention whose theme is Unity in Diversity: A Dialogue of Concerned Citizens. The convention will bring together hundreds of progressive Zimbabweans to chart the way forward in light of the rapidly deteriorating human security situation in the country.
Sinikiwe Marupiwa – Zhou
Centre of Hope
Harare; A small garage in the high density suburb of Kuwadzana, has been turned by a passionate and loving heart into a center of hope for the mentally challenged children aged between six and 19.
A widow, Sinikiwe Marupiwa-Zhou, 53, a primary school teacher for the past 25 years at a nearby school, identified the needs of children with disabilities and in 2011 founded the institution, Center for Hope Support Organisation, where she teaches children with mental challenges to read and write.
Out of her passion to give a life to these children, Zhou single-handedly nurtures them in their path to life as she teaches them various skills in the classroom and in the sports field.
“I am passionate about children with disabilities that is why founded this organisation. At present I have 14 boys and girls who are mentally challenged. I teach them how to read and write from early childhood development (ECD ) to grade 7. Since 2011 none of them has yet advanced to secondary level owing to the fact that they are slow to learn,” said Zhou.
In her quest to help the mentally challenged children to have access to opportunities available to other children such as sport and recreation and a decent education, Zhou admits to a lot of challenges hindering the success of her project.
“I teach the children various skills in sport and recreation. I sometimes take them to play golf and tennis under the invitation of other institutions like the St Georges College. But I face a lot of challenges because I do not have reliable transport to take them regularly.” “I also would like to teach them various self-help skills like breeding poultry market gardening, but that cannot be done at this small space, therefore I would like to expand this space or if I could have a plot to accommodate all of these children and many who are in the communities, still shy to come and be part of this small group,” Zhou said.
Disabled children in Zimbabwe are failing to access basic human rights such as education and health that are enjoyed by their able-bodied colleagues.
“I am being severely impacted by lack of experienced teachers or nurses who are willing to volunteer to work with me and help the children. In this modern economy no one want to work for free. Council gave me permission to expand the institution at the local community center and am still yet to follow up. If I get big space to accommodate the children I hope parents who have children living with disabilities might bring their children also,” Zhou added.
Regardless of her rural upbringing and background, 35-year-old Sally Dura has risen to the position of National Coordinator of the Women Coalition of Zimbabwe (WiCoz), an organization that champions the rights of women in the country.
As a feminist and human rights activist, Sally has inspired a lot of young women in Zimbabwe as she has nurtured them through the Sally’s Institute, an NGO she set up in 2014 to train and empower young women.
“I was raised in rural Masvingo and it is because of my background that I felt the need to uplift young women in the country. In Zimbabwe a lot of young women are disadvantage in a lot of developmental issues and this is part of the work that I do to help assist them,” she said.
At Women Coalition, Sally has helped assist rural women in rural areas such as Gokwe, Masvingo, and Zvishavane. She has set up developmental projects such as poultry and irrigation, thus assisting towards transforming lives for hundreds of such women.
In 2010 more than 1700 households from Chisumbanje village in Chipinge were forcibly displaced from their homelands to pave way for a multi-million dollar ethanol project run by business tycoon Billy Rautenbach.
Rautenbach, who has strong links with the ruling Zanu (PF) was accused by the villagers of fraudulently taking over their land, plunging them into poverty as they lost their homes as a result. To date only a few villagers have been properly resettled and according to Claris Madhuku(36), who is the founder of the Platform for Youth Democracy (PYD), many families are living in abject poverty since the forced displacements. Rautenbach has failed to compensate their losses.
Madhuku through PYD has been instrumental in highlighting the plight of the Chisumbanje villagers and mobilising donors to bring in relief supplies to the desperate villagers.
“I come from Chisumbanje and realized that what Mr Rautenbach had done was totally inhuman, hence the need to fight for proper compensation and relocation. It is very sad to note that the poor villagers were kicked out of their land as a result of selfish interests by an individual who wants to serve his own interests,” said Madhuku.
He added that he will not tire and will continue to advocate for the proper resettlement and compensation of the villagers.
Apart from the Chisumbanje dispute, PYD is involved in Wildlife Conflict Management in the Save Conservancy. According to Madhuku wildlife is threatening livelihoods following the invasion of Save Conservancy by war veterans and they have been working on saving lives as well as ensuring the safeguarding of such wildlife.
“I am very passionate about labour rights and have been active since 2009 . This has led to confrontations with the state but that has not deterred me as I believe in fighting for the workers’ struggle,” said Tatenda Mombeyarara, a labour rights activist based in Harare.
Mombeyarara, a university graduate and Information Officer with the Food and Allied Workers Union (FAWU) has been active in demanding better working conditions for Zimbabweans. Especially during events like May Day and World Teachers Day, Mombeyarara has been instrumental in mobilizing and addressing workers .
“I was severely assaulted on May 1, 2013 during International Workers Day celebrations and was briefly detained at the police station,” he said. “I will keep on standing up for workers rights and won’t be deterred.”
He added that workers in Zimbabwe were being deprived of their rights because employers and the government are engaged in unfair labor practices.